Massachusetts Drug Trafficking Laws, Charges and Statute of Limitations

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Drug trafficking is defined in Massachusetts state law as possession of illegal drugs with the intent to distribute, or to be actively distributing a certain quantity of drugs. The state or federal prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all elements associated with the drug possession are true, as well as a specific type and quantity of drugs that are charged in the indictment.

Drug trafficking is the most serious of all drug crimes in the Commonwealth. If you are convicted of drug trafficking in the state, you will be required to serve a mandatory minimum prison sentence before being eligible for parole. Drug trafficking laws are detailed in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C Section 32E.

Massachusetts Laws and Penalties

If you are convicted of trafficking in marijuana, this is a Class D felony with the following penalties:

  • For trafficking 50 pounds or more, you can receive 2.5 to 15 years in state prison or 2.5 years in jail. You must serve at least one year in prison or jail.
  • For trafficking 100 pounds or more but less than 2,000 pounds, you will get two to 15 years in state prison. You will receive a mandatory minimum sentence of two years.
  • For trafficking 2,000 pounds but less than 10,000 pounds, you can get 3.5 years to 15 years in state prison. The minimum mandatory sentence is 3.5 years.

For cocaine trafficking, this is a class B felony and is more serious than trafficking in marijuana:

  • 18 grams but less than 28 grams gets two to 15 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of two years.
  • 36 grams but less than 200 grams gets eight to 20 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of eight years.
  • 100 grams but less than 200 grams has an 8 to 20 year prison sentence with eight years being a mandatory minimum.
  • 200 grams or more requires 12 to 20 years with 12 years being the mandatory minimum.

For heroin trafficking, this is a class A felony and is the most severe drug trafficking felony in the state:

  • 18 grams but less than 36 grams requires at least 3.5 years in prison with a maximum of 20.
  • 36 grams but less than 100 grams requires at least 5 years in prison with a maximum of 20 years.
  • 100 grams but less than 200 grams requires at least eight years in prison with a maximum of 20 years.
  • 200 grams or more requires at least 12 years in prison with a maximum of 20 years.

Massachusetts Drug Trafficking Defenses

Massachusetts drug trafficking charges are very serious, but there are ways to defend yourself against them. An experienced criminal defense attorney will typically attempt to make at least one of the following arguments in defense:

  • Unlawful search and seizure: The 4th Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees all Americans and residents the due process of law, which includes lawful search and seizure procedures before an arrest is made. Search and seizure problems are common in drug possession cases. Illegal drugs that are in plain view in a car for example can be seized and entered into evidence. But if drugs are found in the trunk after the police open it with a crowbar could be problematic to enter into evidence. If your 4th amendment rights are violated, then the charges could be reduced or even dismissed.
  • Drugs belong to another party: A possible defense with drug possession and trafficking is that the drugs do not belong to you. If the drugs are found in your shared apartment, you might argue that the drugs belong to another person. A good defense attorney may be able to pressure the prosecution to definitively prove that the drugs in evidence belong to you.
  • Poor crime lab analysis: Just because the police said the drug is cocaine does not make it so. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drug is indeed an illegal one. The drugs will be sent to a crime lab to be analyzed. The crime lab technician must testify in the trial and prove that the test was accurate and the result showed the drug was an illegal one.
  • Drugs are missing: It is not unheard of for the prosecution to lose the drugs that were allegedly in your possession that led to the arrest. Seized drugs could be misplaced in the evidence room.
  • Drugs were a plant: A defense attorney can file a motion that would require the police department to release any complaints against the arresting officer. If there were any previous cases where the police officer planted drugs, this could be used to damage the prosecution’s case.

Massachusetts Statute of Limitations

According to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 277 Section 63, the statute of limitations for nonviolent felonies is six years, including drug trafficking and drug possession.

Massachusetts Drug Trafficking Cases

  • 7 Arrested and 3 Wanted in MA Drug Sweep — A year long investigation into drug trafficking and money laundering resulted in seven arrests in Taunton, MA this week. Police are continuing to track down at least three other suspects. According to federal prosecutors, the arrested men controlled and managed a large and sophisticated drug trafficking operation in this area of Massachusetts for years.
  • 45 People Charged in Fentanyl Trafficking Conspiracy — A year long investigation in Concord NH resulted in more than 45 people being indicted in connection to fentanyl drug trafficking ring. Most of those who were arrested are from Massachusetts. More than 30 kilograms of the illegal drug were seized and $500,000 in cash.
  • Haverhill MA Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking — A man pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston this week for his role in an opioid trafficking conspiracy that involved distributing heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone across Massachusetts and Florida. Jesus Gonzalez, 23, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to distribute over 100 grams of heroin and/or 40 grams of fentanyl.