You have been arrested for drug possession. You had some cocaine in your pocket as you were going home last night. You are a visitor to Boston and so brought lots of cash to get you through your visit. As you returned home last night to your hotel, the police thought you looked like a suspect they were looking for in a robbery. The good news is that you were not identified by the “muggee”.
The bad news is the police found the cocaine. And the money. Now, you are in custody waiting to meet your defense attorney.
Does this sound like an unlikely scenario to you? It really isn’t. But I have not even hit the worst part yet. Remember that “lots of cash” I mentioned above? That has convinced law enforcement that you were possessing the cocaine with the intent to sell it. Not bad enough yet? How about that you are also being charged with being in said possession in a “school zone”?
That last little charge opens you up to a mandatory sentence to be served after the sentence for the possession with intent to distribute.
Now, not being terribly familiar with Boston, you look at your lawyer in disbelief as he tells you this. You did not see any schools around where you were walking.
The fact is…you did not have to.
Possession with intent to distribute in a school zone is a charge that one will find in most prosecutions for possession with intent, particularly in Suffolk County. Most people have the idea of the “drug pusher” in a school yard surrounded by kids trying to get them hooked when they think of this charge.
You merely had to be within 1000 feet of a private or public academic institution.
“You mean, an elementary school, right?”
Yes, but not only that.
“High School campus too?”
Any academic institution. Near any campus. 1,000 feet.
“What if the school is closed or it is on vacation?”
It Does not matter.
There is an understanding in the criminal justice system in Suffolk County. Namely, there is just about no place that does not qualify as a school zone.
The translation is that you are charged with sale, or possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell, at least in Suffolk County, you are probably going to be charged with the School Zone count, thereby exposing you to a mandatory consecutive jail sentence if you are found guilty.
“But wait! The police were just stopping my while they were investigating a robbery! I was cleared of that…so illegal search and seizure, right?”
Sorry, but no. The police stopped you for the robbery and had a right to at least frisk you for their own safety. They were at a lawful vantage point (depending on the extent of their search). If the court finds they found the drugs while at that lawful vantage point, the drugs are not suppressed.
“So, what you are tell us, Sam, is that if we are found with drugs and any of any suspicion of drug trafficking, then we are going to jail, right?”
No, not necessarily. As any experienced criminal defense attorney can tell you, there are certain defenses at your disposal. Obviously, your chances of success are effected by the circumstances of your case, but you will need someone who knows what they are doing at the helm of your defense to improve your chances.
As for what that person at the helm can do…check in with us tomorrow for Part Three of this blog.
If you cannot wait for Part Three, and you find yourself needing answers now because you actually have been arrested for drug possession or trafficking and wish to confer with me, feel free to call me at (617) 206-1942.