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

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

As the cost of prescription medication continues to rise, so does the rate of prescription drug fraud. Although most prescription fraud is related to the abuse of prescription drugs, more and more people are committing this criminal offense to obtain medication they couldn’t otherwise afford. That being said, the lion’s share of this crime is still committed by those who plan to distribute or abuse prescription drugs. If you are being charged with prescription drug fraud, a MA criminal defense attorney is your best line of defense.

Prescription drug fraud used to be limited to signing a prescribing doctor’s name on a stolen prescription sheet. However, electronic medical records and prescriptions have taken this crime to a whole new level. At first glance, it may seem that this type of fraud has become more difficult to commit, but the opposite is actually true. Although the process of electronic prescription fraud is more sophisticated today, it’s actually much easier to pull off. With today’s technology, you don’t even have to leave your living room to commit prescription fraud.

And this type of fraud doesn’t have to involve hacking into a system and forging electronic prescriptions. Even modifying a legitimate prescription (changing the medicine strength or number of refills) is illegal. There are countless ways of committing prescription fraud that may seem less serious…but at the end of the day, fraud is fraud. For example, some people will visit several physicians at the same time, request the same prescription from each physician, and have each prescription called into a different pharmacy before anyone figures out what’s going on. However, this method is becoming increasingly difficult as insurance carriers continue to beef up their systems for sorting out fraudulent claims. The drugs that insurance companies are most concerned with include OxyContin, Xanax, Valium, Percocet, and Vicodin, all which have high rates of abuse.

Penalties for Prescription Drug Fraud

When you forge a prescription, and then present that prescription as an official note from a licensed M.D., you are committing prescription drug fraud. In MA, the penalties for this crime are largely dependent on the nature of the crime and whether or not you have any prior criminal history. Generally, if it is your first offense, you may be facing up to two-and-a-half years in jail, and fines of up to $30,000. For a second offense, the punishment is markedly more severe; you may be looking at up to eight years in prison.

A bit of good news: if this is your first offense, MA usually offers some type of diversion program as an alternative to imprisonment and hefty fines. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible for such a program. If you qualify, you will likely enter an addiction treatment program. Upon successful completion, your sentence will either be reduced, or all charges will be dropped. Diversion programs are great for keeping you out of jail and keeping your record clean, but they also provide treatment for what is more likely a disease than a crime. Prison is rarely the best place for an addict. Continue reading

Although crime in Boston is reportedly down, murders were up in 2016. There were a total of 47 homicides in Boston last year, which is nine more than 2015. The first homicide of last year was a 16-year-old teen who was shot and attacked with a machete in East Boston. Sadly, he was the third teen to be murdered in that neighborhood in only four months. According to police, all three deaths were part of an initiation for the MS-13 street gang. Suspects are currently awaiting trial.

According to Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, the police department has been cracking down on violent gang activity. “Our No. 1 priority is taking guns off the street and taking the violence out of our communities,” said Evans. “Operation Wolfgang” is a joint effort among federal, state and local law enforcement to seize drugs, cash, and guns and clear the streets of a drug ring known as the Mozart Street Gang.

46 People Overdose Every Day in the US

According to Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, the arrests of nearly three dozen traffickers will save lives. “Traffickers like these, not only do they rob, shoot and even kill their business rivals and innocents who get caught in the crossfire, they’re responsible for the overdoses that claim three times more lives in Massachusetts than handguns and motor vehicles combined,” said Conley. According to FBI Special Agent Harold Shaw, “Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in the United States, claiming the lives of 46 people every day.” These arrests are also likely to make a dent in the amount of heroin passing through Boston’s city, and suburban, streets. If you are facing charges for any type of criminal offense, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

Shannon Grants

MA has awarded $5.7 million in grant funds to support the efforts of law enforcement to clear the streets of gang violence. According to Gov. Charlie Baker, the funds will be distributed to more than a dozen organizations and communities in the Boston area. Part of this funding goes to providing at-risk youth with education and employment opportunities. The hope is that these opportunities will be a welcome alternative for kids who may have otherwise gotten involved with gangs. The so-called “Shannon Grants” are named for Charles Shannon, a police officer who later became a Senator. The cities receiving funding are Boston, Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield and Taunton. If you have been charged with a crime, contact a MA defense lawyer today.

Gang violence is a problem in Boston, but sometimes people are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you are charged with a gang-related crime by association when you did nothing wrong, you will need the assistance of a skilled defense lawyer to avoid getting locked up and paying hefty fines. In some cases, simply being photographed with a person who is flashing a gang sign can be enough to convict you of crime by association.   Continue reading

In 2012, former drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan was caught tampering with evidence and falsifying test results in thousands of criminal drug cases. For her crime, Dookhan spent three years behind bars. But what about the falsified tests? More than 24,000 drug convictions may have been involved in the tampering scandal. What happens to those individuals? On Wednesday the highest court in Massachusetts rejected a proposal to dismiss all 24,000 convictions, with the exception of those directly impacted by Dookhan’s crime.

As many defendants continue to wait for an opportunity to challenge their convictions, this week the Supreme Judicial Court ruled against ordering the dismissal of all 24,000 cases. In addition, the court declined the prosecutors’ recommendation to take no new action. In lieu of a blanket dismissal, the high court is implementing a three-phase system to handle the cases. If you have been charged with a drug crime, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

Three-Phase System

Prescription drug abuse is a nationwide problem, and it’s growing. As such, prescription fraud crimes are also on the rise. If you’re facing prescription fraud charges, you could be convicted of drug crimes, but you can also be convicted of forgery. A legal prescription must be signed by a licensed doctor with the appropriate education and credentials to write it. Otherwise, it’s a falsified prescription…and it’s a crime. If you have been charged with prescription drug fraud, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

Prescription drug abuse impacts all of us. In the United States, approximately 15 million people abuse prescription drugs. That is a higher number than those who abuse heroin, cocaine, inhalants, and hallucinogens, combined. In fact, one survey revealed that about six percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 25 have abused prescription drugs. In 2005, there were 22,400 drug overdoses in the United States. Of those, 38 percent were the result of opioid painkillers. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are depressants, antidepressants, and opioid painkillers. According to research, one of the problems may be that teens believe prescription drugs to be safer than illegal drugs. About 50 percent of teens surveyed had this misconception.

Fraudulent Prescriptions vs. Valid Prescriptions

Vermont governor Peter Shumlin recently issued 192 pardons to individuals with marijuana convictions, as long as the offenses were not related to DUI charges or violent crimes. This bold move begs the question, will Massachusetts follow suit? Although pot has been decriminalized in Vermont, the green mountain state still hasn’t legalized recreational use. So, if Vermont can pardon those convicted of pot crimes, can’t Mass?

How can people be locked up for something that is no longer a crime? It’s a good question, and a problem that certain MA lawmakers are trying to resolve. A group consisting of the ACLU, Massachusetts Senator Jamie Eldridge, and Horace Small, the Executive DIrector of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, is currently crafting new legislation that would apply marijuana legalization retroactively throughout the state. This new legislation would, in turn, free individuals who are behind bars because of pot. “We’ve approved medical marijuana, decriminalization and now legalization. It shows that the voters don’t believe the people who possess or sell marijuana should be in jail,” said Sen. Eldridge in a recent statement to the Boston Globe.

Behind Bars for a Crime That is No Longer a Crime?

If the group gets its way, “offenders” who are in jail for nonviolent marijuana offenses will be released, and their related criminal records will be expunged. In addition to being fair, retroactive legalization would also help alleviate some of the overwhelming costs associated with mass incarceration in MA. “We have to look at releasing folks who are in jail for marijuana crimes that are no longer crimes,” Small said. “It’s only fair now that the prohibition is over to retroactively erase these records. Sometime in the next month or two we’ll have a piece of legislation.”

But not everyone agrees.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson thinks a blanket retroactive measure is unfair. “It’s counterproductive and it undermines the judicial system,” Hodgson said. Further, Hodgson and some others who share his view believe that many offenders are locked up for marijuana charges because of plea deals based on more serious crimes.

But Eldridge and Small agree that releasing violent criminals would be a mistake. “This doesn’t apply to someone working for a cartel or something,” Small said. “We need to look at what’s realistic and what’s over the top — there are a lot of conversations that we need to have.”

It seems that a case-by-case basis for retroactive legalization may be the first step.

In the case of Vermont’s pardoning, the crimes are forgiven and criminal punishments come to a close, but a pardon does not clear an individual’s criminal record. An expungement, on the other hand, does. If Eldridge and Small’s legislation passes, not only will marijuana “offenders” be released from jail, their related criminal records will be wiped clean. If an individual’s pot charge is associated with a violent crime or an OUI, however, expungement is not likely. Immigration status may also come into play. In any case, if you would like to receive an expungement for a marijuana conviction, contact a Boston criminal defense attorney today. Continue reading

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