Distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance are treated as essentially the same crime in Massachusetts.
A conviction of either for a class A, B, or C substance is a felony. Conviction for a class D or E substance, as a first offense, is a misdemeanor, but the consequences can still be severe.
Distribution of a Controlled Substance.
Distribution of a controlled substance is exactly as the words indicate. In order to be charged, the police must have probable cause to believe that you actually took place in a transaction in which you gave another person an illegal substance.
The amount of the drug is not an element of the crime. It could, and often is, very little. It is not necessary that any money be exchanged, either. Simply handing a bag, joint, pill, or any other form of a controlled substance to another person is a crime.
This is a serious offense, and it will be vigorously prosecuted by the Government.
Possession of a Controlled Substance With Intent to Distribute.
The crime of Possession of Drugs with Intent to Distribute is a serious offense in Massachusetts. If you are convicted, the possibility of jail time is very high.
Massachusetts drug laws do not state a specific amount or quantity of illegal drugs or controlled substances that a person must be found with in order to be charged with the crime of Possession With Intent To Distribute. A person can be charged with this crime even if very uncertain or vague circumstances surrounded the arrest. Police will often charge a person with this serious offense if they find even the slightest evidence, or “indicia”, that you intended to distribute (or sell) the substance involved. These include the presence of scales, plastic baggies for packaging, cash, multiple marijuana plants, records of sales, and multiple cell phones.
Of course, the more of a substance you possess, the greater the likelihood you will be charged with possession with intent, but even a small amount of a substance can lead to a possession with intent charge in the presence of other “indicia.”
Proof of Possession with Intent to Distribute.
In order to convict you of Possession with Intent, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
First, that you intentionally or knowingly possessed the particular controlled substance charged; and
Second, that you intended to distribute, dispense, or manufacture the controlled substance.
Possession means that the defendant either had actual possession of the substance on his body, or that he exercised control over the substance and had ready access to it. Possession can be actual or it can be “constructive”. “Constructive possession” means that you have control over something even though it is not in your hands, on your body, or right next to you. You might have constructive possession over something that is in the trunk of a car you own, or buried in your back yard.
A person’s intent is his or her purpose or objective. Determining what is in someone’s mind is sometimes very difficult, but jurors are told that they should examine the defendant’s actions and words, and all of the surrounding circumstances, to help them determine what the defendant’s intent was at that time.
Jurors are also instructed that as a general rule, it is reasonable to infer that a person ordinarily
intends the natural and probable consequences of any acts that he does voluntarily or deliberately.
A jury does not have to find that the defendant knew that he was breaking the law, but it is necessary that they find he intended the act to occur which constitutes the offense.
Penalties for Possession with Intent to Distribute.
Depending on the drug involved and which class of controlled substance the drug belongs to, defendants charged with repeat offenses could face severe penalties including minimum-mandatory sentences and lengthy state prison sentences.
Because there are a variety of drugs that are considered controlled substances, there is no “one” punishment or penalty that attaches to this crime. Instead, the penalties differ depending on the particular drug that was involved, and the class of controlled substances that the drug belonged to. Most often, Possession With Intent To Distribute usually involves either heroin, cocaine or marijuana.
Possession Of Heroin With Intent to Distribute.
Heroin is a Class A controlled substance. Penalties are governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C Section 32. The punishment following a first conviction of this offense ranges from 2 ½ years in a House of Correction/County Jail, to as much as ten years in state prison. In addition to incarceration, there is also a fine of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 that a judge can impose. A second conviction carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 5 years to a maximum of 15 years.
Possession of Cocaine With Intent to Distribute.
Cocaine is a Class B controlled substance. Penalties are governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C Section 32A. The punishment following a first conviction of this offense includes 2 ½ years in a House of Correction/County Jail, together with a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Penalties following a second (or subsequent) conviction carry a 3 year mandatory minimum sentence to state prison, with a possible maximum sentence of 10 years. In addition to incarceration, a judge can impose a fine ranging anywhere from a minimum of $2,500 to a maximum $25,000.
Possession of Marijuana With Intent to Distribute.
Marijuana is a Class D controlled substance. If an individual is arrested for possessing marijuana and police or prosecutors believe that the defendant intended to distribute it, they will be charged with Possession with Intent despite the decriminalization of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
The punishment following a first conviction of this offense includes a 2 year sentence to a House of Correction/County Jail and/or a fine of $500 fine. Penalties following a second (or subsequent) conviction carry a minimum sentence of 1 year up to a maximum of 2 ½ years in a House of Correction/County Jail. A second conviction also carries a minimum fine of $1,000, up to a maximum of $10,000 dollars.
Penalties for Possession of Intent To Distribute Other Drugs.
The following are minimum penalties for each class of Controlled Substance:
- Class A substance: First (1st) Offense: 2 ½ years in a House of Correction/County Jail; Second (2nd) Offense: Mandatory minimum of 5 years in a state prison.
- Class B substance: First (1st) Offense: 2 ½ years in a House of Correction/County Jail; Second (2nd) Offense: Mandatory minimum of 3 years in a state prison.
- Class C substance: First (1st) Offense: 2 ½ years in a House of Correction/County Jail; Second (2nd) Offense: Mandatory minimum of 2 years in a state prison.
- Class D substance: First (1st) Offense: 2 ½ years in a House of Correction/County Jail; Second (2nd) Offense: Mandatory minimum of 2 years in a House of Correction/County Jail.
Note: For a conviction in any class of drugs, if the arrest occurred within a school zone, a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years’ incarceration follows a first offense.