Some people think that if they dabble with what they believe are harmless drugs, that they are not doing anything wrong. This may be especially true if they are homeowners who hold down a well-paying job and support their family and only use drugs for a bit of “fun” on the weekend. Unfortunately, in Massachusetts if you possess, traffic or intend to distribute unlawful substances you can be charged with a drug crime.
Being charged with any crime, including drug crimes, can be scary. Not only is your freedom and reputation on the line but facing a judge in a criminal case is something most people in Massachusetts have not experienced before. Whether your case will be held in district court, superior court or federal court depends on the crime at issue.
Crimes heard in district court
A crime will be heard in district court if it is a misdemeanor or a felony with a five-year maximum prison sentence and certain felonies with greater penalties. District courts also conduct hearings to issue a criminal complaint or issue an arrest warrant or determine if police have probable cause to make a warrantless arrest. Simple possession cases may be heard in district court.
Crimes heard in superior court
A crime will be heard in superior court if it is a felony crime carrying a potential prison sentence of five years or more. Drug trafficking crimes may be heard in superior court. Trafficking occurs if you are in possession of large amounts of certain drugs, even if you did not distribute these drugs. It is a more serious crime than simple possession.
Crimes heard in federal court
A drug crime will be heard in federal court in several circumstances. If the alleged crime involves mass quantities of an unlawful substance, involves both drugs and firearms or involves an interstate distribution and trafficking operation, these cases may be heard in federal court. Generally, cases heard in federal court carry greater punishments than cases heard in district court or superior court.
Learn more about your options if charged with a drug crime
Ultimately, being accused of committing a drug crime is a serious matter. Many of us have no experience with the criminal justice system until we find ourselves facing criminal charges. It is important to seek the help you need to understand your rights throughout the trial process, so you can develop a solid defense strategy.