Drug Violation Near a School Zone

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C, also known as the Controlled Substances Act, governs drug crimes in our state. If a defendant is charged with a drug violation, he may be charged with a drug violation near a school zone. The Massachusetts Legislature has recently changed the distance within which an individual must be in order to be charge and/or convicted of this violation. Previously, a person could be charged with this type of crime if he or she was believed to be in possession of an illegal controlled substance with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a “school.” Now, the Commonwealth must prove that the defendant possessed the alleged controlled contraband with intent to distribute within three hundred feet of a school. To convict a defendant of a drug violation near a school zone, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  1. Is guilty of the underlying crime ( i.e. distribution, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, etc.).
  2. The underlying crime was committed within: (a.) 300 feet of elementary, vocational or secondary school grounds, whether or not that school is in session and whether or not the school is public or private; or (b.) within 100 feet of a public playground or park. To satisfy this element, it is not necessary that the defendant intended to distribute drugs within that school zone. It is enough that the defendant possessed drugs within that distance and intended to distribute them anywhere. A prosecutor is not required to prove a defendant's knowledge that he was within that distance from a school, playground or park. Even an alternative school in a boys' and girls' club with only two rooms is a "school" under this law. The distance from the school is to be measured in a straight line from the school's boundary to the site of the alleged drug activity. It is not the distance it would take by using the street or any other kind of pathway. A school principal or police officer may testify as to that school boundary line.
  3. Relative to the school zone violation, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense occurred between five o’clock in the morning and twelve o’clock midnight.

The purpose of this law is to create drug-free school zones. Since keeping school children safe from drugs is a highly important objective, the punishments for a conviction can be serious. The school zone statute carries a mandatory minimum two-year jail sentence. The state prison sentence can reach up to fifteen years. A fine of up to $10,000 can be imposed in addition to the prison sentence.

Defenses To Possession Of A Controlled Substance In A School Zone

General Laws c. 94C, § 32J does not specifically indicate the method that must be employed to determine the distance. However, the measurement can take place from the site of the alleged illegal activity and does not necessarily have to be taken to the specific room of the alleged crime.

Thus, depending on the circumstances a viable defense to this charge could be that the measurement is not accurate.

Filing Motions To Dismiss

Because the distance from the alleged transaction to the school zone has recently been decreased, many of the complaints are issued with the wrong information. Thus, many defendants are charged with a school zone violation within 1,000 feet of a school zone instead of within 300 feet of a school zone. Furthermore, often a clerk is presented with a police report that merely mentions a school and does not include information establishing the footage within which the alleged illegal transaction took place within a “school zone.” An experienced Massachusetts drug lawyer would carefully review the report that was presented to the clerk-magistrate who issued the complaint to ensure that the Commonwealth presented probable cause for the complaint to issue on this element. If the police report does NOT contain the necessary information, a motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause to issue the complaint must be filed. If allowed, the defendant no longer faces a mandatory minimum sentence.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug violation near a school zone, you will need an excellent criminal defense attorney like Kathleen M. McCarthy. McCarthy is committed to providing each of her clients with the best defense possible. If you face this charge, you should immediately call the Law Offices of Kathleen M. McCarthy at (978)-975-8060 or contact her online. The sooner she starts building your defense, the better off you will be.

Case Results » Drug Violation Near a School Zone
  • Non-Citizen Placed On Pre-Trial Probation And Avoids Immigration Consequences

    A non-citizen college student was charged with illegal distribution of a "Class D" [M.G.L. ch. 94C s.32C] substance after undercover police officers observed her exchanging the product for cash at a local park. The officers quickly approached the young woman and arrested her. She immediately realized the gravity of her mistake when she was told that any type of admission or conviction for this type of offense would result in her deportation and inability to re-enter the country.

    Our office went to work immediately and highlighted her impressive educational background and her civic contributions to the District Attorney's Office. Eventually, the prosecution agreed to continue the case for a period of time and provided there are no more issues—the case will be dismissed. Negotiating this disposition avoided collateral immigration consequences for the client.

    Read More in Pretrial Probation

  • Case To Be Dismissed Against Client Who Faced A Mandatory Prison Sentence For Possession With Intent To Distribute Marijuana In A School Zone

    According to the police report, police responded to a downtown Boston apartment because of a call for a home invasion. Upon entering the apartment and arresting the alleged perpetrators, the officers observed what they believed to be drug paraphernalia. The police secured a search warrant.

    During the execution of the search warrant marijuana plants, tents, scales and baggies were confiscated from the apartment. Some of the items were confiscated from a room that the police believed belonged to the defendant, although he was not present during the incident or execution of the warrant.

    The defendant was charged with the above offenses. Attorney McCarthy successfully litigated a motion to dismiss the school zone portion of the charge during the initial stages of the case. The potential for serving a mandatory jail sentence was removed early on in the case much to the client's pleasure.

    After persuasive advocacy on Attorney McCarthy's part the prosecutor reduced the case to one count of possession of marijuana that will be dismissed provided the defendant satisfies certain conditions and does not get rearrested. The client avoided conviction and a mandatory jail sentence.

  • Attorney McCarthy Secures Dismissal Of Two Separate Cases Charging Unlicensed Operation And Operating After Suspension Of Driver's License For Local Professional Woman

    In July, 2010 a police officer pulled a car over after noticing an expired inspection sticker. A RMV inquiry indicated that the registration was expired and that the driver's license had expired. The defendant was charged with unlicensed operation of a car, operating an unregistered motor vehicle and failing to have an inspection sticker. She was summonsed in to the Lawrence District Court. Unfortunately, the summons went to the wrong address and a warrant issued for her arrest.

    In December, 2010 another police officer pulled the same woman over for a broken headlight. A RMV inquiry indicated that her license to operate was suspended and there was an outstanding arrest warrant for her failure to answer to the first set of charges. The defendant was arrested. Attorney McCarthy negotiated a disposition whereby all charges were dismissed on minimal court costs.