Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

Here is a piece of the basic advice that perhaps I don’t stress enough. Maybe it is my fault that a certain Gentleman from Springfield is in so much trouble.

Arquelio Cajigas, 45 years of age and hereinafter the “Defendant”, is currently being held on $250,000 bail after pleading not guilty to various charges including heroin possession and illegal possession of a gun.

Well, that’s not too and given the fact that the prosecutors asked for $500,000 bail saying that he is a “career drug dealer.”

The Defendant’s bail request was apparently for $25,000 bail, saying his client is of limited means and cooperated fully in the police investigation.

In fact, said “cooperation” did not support the argument of limited means. In fact, the Defendant apparently told law enforcement that he lives in a shelter.

According to the Boston Herald, the police say that they found approximately $35,000 and a 9 mm handgun Tuesday in one of the apartments. At another apartment, detectives say they found 816 grams of uncut heroin, enough for 80,000 bags with a street value of $400,000 to $800,000.

These values tend to be unsupportive of a poverty argument.

It is not clear at this point what links the Defendant to these two apartments. However, the allegations as they are give us fodder to discuss the point to which I allude as well as a couple other tidbits of information.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Drugs, Guns And Statements To Law Enforcement

I have explained many times that it is usually unwise for a suspect to make statements to the police as he or she is facing arrest. I have explained the reasons for this several times and, I am sure, will do so again.

Not today, though.

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…And another gent is learning about what I have begun to think of as the “Commonwealth Double Whammy”.

According to the Boston Herald,  Florian Roshi, 34 from Weymouth and hereinafter the “Defendant”, is now facing criminal charges and his three children are in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”).

The Defendant is facing charges of Operating Under The Influence of Drugs and Child Endangerment. As reported, it sounds like he is in a lot of trouble.

The Commonwealth alleges that the Defendant was driving a truck while under the influence. They say the truck careened off the road and scraped along a guardrail.  Showing questionable judgment, the Defendant made statements. He allegedly told police that he “swerved and heard glass break. When officers asked what took so long to stop, he did not have an answer.”

The prosecutor told the judge at the Defendant’s Arraignment that a 4-year-old “went through the front passenger window of the truck”.

The child restraint seat in the back “was not anchored or secured to the vehicle in any manner. It was merely placed in the rear of the vehicle,” the prosecutor said. Apparently, the 4-year-old suffered “significant road rash” on his face and was expected to undergo an MRI at Children’s Hospital.

Authorities say that the Defendant abandoned the vehicle and child in the breakdown lane of Route 3. He is then said to have walked a quarter-mile back with his uninjured 8-year-old child to where his 4-year-old lay injured.  According to law enforcement, the child was being comforted in the arms of a good Samaritan while his father “had an emotion neutral look on his face” and “a glazed over look in his eyes.”

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In 2015, Oregon legalized recreational marijuana. To date, seven states and the District of Colombia have adopted full legalization, and 26 states have legalized marijuana in some form. But what about more serious drugs like crystal meth and cocaine? There are no plans to legalize narcotics in the near future, but reduced penalties are on the horizon.

Drugs, Amounts, and Penalties

A new law in Oregon will reduce first-time possession of certain drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. As with most criminal offenses, penalties will be largely dependent on prior history and the particulars of the case. For example, individuals with prior felony convictions and those who are found in possession of commercial quantities of a drug are not likely to receive the benefits of this new legislation. Specific drugs and amounts covered by this statute are as follows:

Addiction to opioid pain killers has reached epidemic proportions. In fact, some studies estimate that more deaths are caused by opioids, such as oxycodone and OxyContin, than motor vehicle accidents in the United States. The government and law enforcement agencies nationwide are struggling with how to respond to this ever-growing problem. Police are cracking down on illegal possession and distribution, but the process has not been easy. For starters, opioids are legal with a valid prescription. Further, the problem is more likely to be resolved with education and rehabilitation; jail time and criminal penalties often do more harm than good.

Most people who become addicted to opioid pain killers start with a legal prescription. Opioids are often given after painful surgical procedures that require long-term recovery, such as hip replacements and back surgeries. But even lesser injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, may be treated with opioid pain killers. The ease with which some doctors prescribe these highly-addictive drugs, and the drug manufacturers’ eagerness to fill those prescriptions, is at the center of a national debate. In response, the Justice Department has recently formed the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. The unit will focus on “investigating and prosecuting health care fraud related to prescription opioids, including pill mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.”

Some Doctors Write More Monthly Opioid Prescriptions Than Entire Hospitals

Many states, including Massachusetts, have specialized drug courts, which aim to provide addiction treatment rather than criminal penalties for drug offenders. However, last month, New York took its drug court system one step further by instituting a highly-specialized opiate court to address the nation’s growing problem with opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions, nationwide. As such, law makers have come to the realization that the problem must be dealt with differently from other crimes, even from other drug crimes. In most cases, opioid addicts need treatment and rehabilitation, not hefty fines and prison time.

On May 1, New York’s Buffalo City Court initiated the opiate intervention program, which will screen anyone arrested in Buffalo for opiate use and put their criminal cases on hold while they are enrolled in an addiction treatment program. In a recent interview, District Attorney John J. Flynn told the Buffalo News, “Jail is not the answer. Will people be held accountable for their crimes? Yes. But they also deserve to be cared for and loved.” A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a drug crime.

Delays Can be Deadly

New York’s new opiate court is different from traditional drug courts in multiple ways. In its standard program, drug users typically don’t begin treatment for 30, 60 or 90 days. In opiate court, treatment begins immediately. When it comes to opiate addicts, a three-month delay can be deadly. So far, the program seems to be a success; 40 of the first 43 people admitted are currently undergoing addiction treatment. New York’s bold move may create sweeping changes in how drug offenses are treated across the country.

The Massachusetts Probation Service, which administers MA’s drug courts, estimates that over 80 percent of the probation population is battling some type of addiction. According to Specialty Courts Administrator Sheila Casey, MA drug court programs generally last between 16 and 24 months. “Drug courts provide highly intensive probation supervision and access to appropriate treatment for substance use disorders to participants who are ’high risk/high need,’” said Casey. “Probationers report on a weekly basis at first with court appearances becoming less frequent as the person progresses through the drug court.“ A Boston defense attorney can help you determine if drug court is an option for you.

Drug Courts Work

Across the country, about 75 percent of individuals who successfully complete drug court remain arrest-free for at least two years following the program.

  • Studies of drug courts reveal that, on average, crime reduction lasts at least three years and can endure for more than 14 years.
  • Reports show that drug courts reduce crime by up to 45 percent more than criminal prosecution.
  • Across the country, taxpayers save up to $3.36 for every $1.00 invested in the drug court system.
  • When other cost offsets such as healthcare are considered, that savings increases to up to $27 per every $1 invested.
  • Per client, drug courts save up to $13,000 in reduced arrest and trial costs, reduced prison costs, and reduced costs related to victimization.

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Willie Wilkerson is a pastor at the Mission Church on Quincy Street in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Earlier this month, he was arrested on drug trafficking and intent to distribute charges following an investigation of the church, a food trailer, he owns and his home. In addition to crack cocaine and prescription pills, police found about $20,000 worth of stolen items and more than $10,000 in cash in his home.

Following the issuance of a search warrant, law enforcement discovered drugs, including crack, fentanyl, Klonopin, and oxycodone, hidden in printers and coffee makers. Materials and tools used to cut and package drugs were also found in the search. In addition to regular church services, the Mission Church also offers a 12-step recovery group for members with substance abuse issues.

Among the stolen items found in Wilkerson’s home were pieces of equipment belonging to an excavating company and other property that had recently been reported stolen. According to police, the investigation is still underway, and Wilkerson may wind up facing additional charges. Bail was set at $50,000 and the pastor must remain in Massachusetts and wear a GPS monitor. He is due in court on June 1. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with drug trafficking.

Drug Trafficking Penalties in MA

Drug trafficking is a Class D felony in Massachusetts, and a conviction can put you behind bars for a long, long time. Penalties vary widely, based on the type of drug, aggravating circumstances, and past criminal history. However, the scenarios below may shed some light on what penalties you may be facing if convicted of drug trafficking.

  • If found trafficking 50 pounds or more of an illegal drug, you may face up to 15 years in prison, with a one-year mandatory jail sentence.
  • For at least 100 pounds but less than 2000 pounds of a drug, there is a three-year mandatory minimum sentence, but you may face up to 15 years in prison.
  • You will face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, and up to 15 years, if you are found trafficking between 2000 and 9999 pounds of an illegal drug.

Heroin and Cocaine

Charges for the most dangerous drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, carry even more serious penalties. Trafficking Cocaine is a Class B felony and heroin is a Class A felony. If found trafficking up to 14 grams of cocaine or heroin, you may face up to 20 years in prison, with a five year mandatory minimum sentence. A MA defense attorney can help position you for the most favorable outcome if you’ve been charged with a drug crime. Continue reading

A recent study found that many school zones, nationwide, have higher-than-average crime rates. Boston is no exception. But which school zone in Boston is considered the most dangerous? That would be the Roxbury-area school zone surrounding the James P. Timilty Middle School. The zone, which forms a 300-foot radius around the school, was the scene of more than 280 crimes from 2015 to 2017, according to research conducted by Safe Home, a security company that compiles crime data from Boston and several other US cities.

It’s not all bad news; crime in Boston school zones is on the decline. But certain areas are experiencing a disproportionate level of crime around schools. The Boston area’s top five “dangerous school zones” racked up a total of 149 assaults, 147 drug or alcohol crimes, 138 robberies, and 88 gun crimes, all within feet of elementary, middle, and high schools. In addition to Boston, Safe Home analyzed school zone crime in Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Louisiana, New York City, and Seattle. A MA defense lawyer can help you get your life back on track if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

Is My Kid’s School Zone on the List?

The school zones in Boston with the highest rates of crime are:

  • James P. Timilty Middle School
  • Codman Academy Charter School (Upper)
  • Holy Name Parish School
  • Dearborn STEM Academy
  • Jeremiah E. Burke High School
  • Boston University
  • Kennedy Day School
  • Pauline A Shaw Elementary School
  • William Monroe Trotter
  • Holmes Elementary School

Enhanced Sentencing for Crimes Committed in School Zones

To compile this information, Safe Home gathered crime data from the U.S. City Open Data Census and cross-referenced it with the geolocations of associated school zones. This high incidence of crime within school zones is even more perplexing given the enhanced penalties for committing crimes within 300 feet of a school. In MA, for example, a person convicted of distributing illicit drugs in a school zone is subject to additional penalties than if the act occurred in a non-school zone. This is even true if the school is not in session. The enhanced sentence for school zone drug crimes in MA is not less than 2.5 years, and up to 15 years in prison, and it carries a fine of up to $10,000.

To be convicted of a “school zone” crime, the offense must have taken place:

  • Within 300 feet of a school.
  • Between the hours of 5:00 am and midnight.
  • Within 100 feet of a playground or public park.

Although Boston’s hardest-hit school zones are experiencing a concerning level of criminal activity, it pales in comparison to the other cities in the study. In fact, one school zone in Seattle racked up more than 3,000 crimes in 2016 alone. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime in a school zone. Continue reading

We know that it’s not uncommon for college students to experiment with drugs. It’s the types of drugs they are experimenting with that may come as a surprise. Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are commonly referred to as study drugs because they help users stay focused. These medications are usually prescribed for young people with disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but the rate of abuse is continuing to rise.

Due to the high rate of abuse, students who have legitimate prescriptions for these drugs are often asked to share or sell them. It may seem harmless to share a prescription medication with a friend who just wants a quick study boost for an exam, but selling Adderall and Ritalin can be punished as severely as selling meth or cocaine. These drugs are classified as Schedule II controlled substances, which is the same classification given to meth and cocaine. Even possession by someone without a valid prescription can result in fines and jail time. A MA drug crimes defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you are facing drug charges.

Signs of Addiction to Adderall, Ritalin, and Similar Drugs

Adderall and Ritalin are highly-addictive prescription drugs that work by increasing levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is often referred to as the “feel good” chemical. Common signs of addiction to Adderall and Ritalin include:

  • Requiring a larger dose to feel the desired effects.
  • Taking the medication even though you know it’s causing harm.
  • Depending on the drug to finish work.
  • Spending significant amounts of money to obtain the drug.
  • Feeling tired or lethargic without the drug.

Penalties for Selling Adderall and Ritalin

Due to their classification as a Schedule II controlled substance, a conviction of selling Adderall or Ritalin may put you behind bars for years. Further, if you are caught selling drugs on school grounds, you may lose your federal student aid and the ability to get student loans. This is true even if you don’t see jail time. As with most crimes, the penalties for selling study drugs are largely dependent on the circumstances of the crime and prior criminal history. Penalties for selling Adderall and Ritalin may include:

  • First offense: Up to one year in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
  • Second and subsequent offenses: Up to 10 years in prison (with a mandatory three year term), and fines of between $1,000 and $25,000.

Diversion Programs

If you are a first-time offender and are being charged with a non-violent drug offense, you may qualify for a diversion program. MA recognizes that not all individuals charged with drug crimes are criminals. In many cases, drug crime defendants are addicts, and addiction is a disease. As such, treatment and rehabilitation is generally more effective than prison time. A skilled Boston drug crimes attorney can help you determine if you qualify for one of these programs. If you do, upon successful completion of the program, your charges will likely be reduced, or dropped entirely. Continue reading

When it comes to drug possession and sales, cocaine is one of the leading illegal drugs in Massachusetts. Due to the violence and other associated crimes surrounding cocaine use, distribution, and trafficking, MA has become increasingly tough on cocaine charges. Whether in powder or rock form, getting busted for cocaine possession or  distribution carries steep penalties in the Bay State.

If you find yourself facing these charges, the first step is to consult with an experienced Boston defense attorney. A drug conviction can haunt you for years, negatively impacting your ability to get the job you want, and even to find housing. It can also affect child custody arrangements. Drug charges are not something you want to try to fight on your own; the right attorney can make all the difference in the world.

Penalties for Cocaine Possession, Sale, and Trafficking

In MA, as in most states, cocaine possession, sale, and trafficking are felony crimes. Even possession of a small amount of the drug can put you behind bars for up to one year. As with most crimes, the penalty is largely dependent on the circumstances of the underlying offense, as well as past criminal history. If you were busted with a small amount of cocaine intended for personal use and have no criminal record, your penalty will likely be much less severe than that of a three-time offender. The standard penalties for these crimes are as follows:

  • Possession, first offense: Up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
  • Possession, subsequent offense: Up to two years in jail, and up to $2,000 in fines.
  • If you are found in possession of over 14 grams, the charges will be elevated to trafficking.
  • Sale, first offense: Up to 10 years in prison, and up to $10,000 in fines.
  • Sale, subsequent offense: Up to 15 years in prison, and up to $25,000 in fines.
  • Trafficking, 14 to 28 grams: Up to 15 years in prison, and up to $25,000 in fines.
  • Trafficking, 28 to 100 grams: Up to 20 years in prison, and up to $50,000 in fines.
  • Trafficking, 100 to 200 grams: Up to 20 years in prison, and up to $100,000 in fines.
  • Trafficking, over 200 grams: Up to 20 years in prison, and up to $500,000 in fines.

Do I Qualify for a Diversion Program?

As you can see above, the penalties for everything from simple possession to trafficking are quite severe. But there is some good news. The state of MA offers diversion programs for some low-level, non-violent drug offenders. If you were charged with cocaine possession and this is your first offense or second offense, a skilled MA drug defense attorney can help you determine if you are eligible for a diversion program. In many cases, individuals charged with possession are more in need of addiction treatment than time behind bars. Continue reading

Chicago’s DePaul University recently made headlines for something its administration likely hopes will soon be forgotten. Four of the university’s students have been arrested for attempting to sell over 100 Xanax pills to undercover officers. The transactions, which took place on four separate occasions over the last few weeks, are a stark reminder of the reality of prescription drug abuse on college campuses, and throughout the country.

Xanax is one of a number of commonly abused prescription drugs, and it doesn’t discriminate. Like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Valium, the addictive qualities of Xanax destroy the lives of the young and old, rich and poor, male and female, white and black, alike. All of these drugs are legal when obtained with a valid prescription from a licensed medical doctor, but that doesn’t prevent legal recipients of highly-addictive prescription drugs from becoming dependent on them.

Despite the addictive nature of many prescription drugs, abuse is treated as a crime. It is illegal to purchase, sell, or even possess these medications without a valid prescription. Like heroin and cocaine, prescription drugs are controlled substances, and they are federally regulated like their “street drug” counterparts. As such, getting caught selling, or illegally purchasing or possessing these drugs comes with serious consequences. A MA criminal defense attorney can help if you are facing drug charges.

What is the Penalty for Possession of Illegal Prescription Drugs in MA?

As with most criminal offenses, the penalty for possession of illegal prescription drugs is largely dependent on the nature of the offense and prior criminal history. If, for example, you have no criminal history and you are caught with a small amount of an illegally-acquired prescription drug intended for personal use, your penalty will likely not be too severe. Chances are, you will be charged with a misdemeanor offense, or less. If, on the other hand, you have previously been convicted of distribution of an illegal substance and you are caught manufacturing illegal prescription drugs, the penalty will be much more severe. A Boston drug crimes defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you are facing charges for selling prescription drugs.

Each type of illegal drug falls into a specific category, and most of the dangerous (addictive) prescription drugs are classified as Class B or Class C. For both classes of drug, the penalty for possession is up to one year in jail. Penalties increase for second and subsequent offenses, and if there was an intent to distribute. Whatever the circumstances of your case, it is crucial to hire experienced legal representation. Drug crimes are not taken lightly in MA, and the right lawyer can mean the difference between years behind bars and freedom.  Continue reading

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