Possession of controlled substances is charged when a person is in possession of an illegal drug or for which they do not have a valid prescription. It is usually charged when a personal use amount is found on a suspect and there is no evidence the person intended to distribute or sell the drug.
Possession of less than an ounce (28.3 grams) of Marijuana for personal use is now a civil infraction and not a crime it carries a potential fine of $100. But be aware intent to distribute a drug, including Marijuana is still a criminal offense. Evidence of intent to distribute can be argued by the prosecutor by how the drugs are packaged, small quantities individually wrapped, or a large amount of currency seized from the person, or scales, beepers or multiple cell phones. Although a personal use amount of marijuana is no longer a criminal offense possession of any drug paraphernalia is still a misdemeanor criminal charge.
Penalties for possession increase depending on what drug is charged. Possession of cocaine carries a maximum penalty of 1 year or a $1,000 fine or both. Also the registry of motor vehicles normally will suspend the license of someone convicted of a drug offense; the length of the suspension varies depending on the charge.
Possession of Heroin or other Class A substances carries a 2 year potential sentence and $2,000 fine or both.
For first offenders whose case cannot be won by throwing out the evidence or at trial there is an alternative disposition which is available to the court it requires a person waive their rights to a trial and make an admission to the charge after which a Judge may continue the case without a finding rather than find a person guilty. If a person then completes a term of probation successfully the case is dismissed. An experienced criminal lawyer can advise you as to whether they think your case can be won or whether it is best to resolve the case short of trial and negotiate the best result possible with the hope of a avoiding a conviction and protecting your criminal record for the future.
Subsequent or repeat offenders can face harsher sentences. The Commonwealth can charge someone as early as their second offense as a subsequent offender which increases the potential range of punishment and allows them to take the case to superior court where a mandatory 2 ½ year sentence must be imposed and one can face up to a potential 5 year sentence and/or a $5,000 fine.
Frank Fernandez is a Boston criminal lawyer who is experienced in fighting drug charges, contact him for a free confidential consultation, 617-393-0250.