Possession of a Controlled Substance
Under Massachusetts Criminal law, Possession of a Controlled Substance may be found under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 94C, Section 34. This offense penalizes the conduct of knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled substance or illegal drug unless by a licensed medical provider acting in accordance with her or her duties, pursuant to a valid prescription, or otherwise authorized by law.
This law targets both drug users and drug dealers. The penalties for this crime are listed according to the illegal drug possessed. Each drug is placed within one of several classes of controlled substances outlined by Massachusetts law.
See Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance for charges that involve possession with intent to distribute.
Legal Elements for Possession of a Controlled Substance
In order to be convicted of Possession of a Controlled Substance under Massachusetts criminal law, there must exist strong evidence of the following three legal elements:
- that the substance in question is a controlled substance under Massachusetts criminal law
- that the defendant possessed some perceptible amount of that substance
- the defendant did so knowingly and intentionally
What is Possession for Purposes of Possessing a Controlled Substance
Under Massachusetts criminal law, there are two ways to possess a controlled substance:
- actual possession
- constructive possession
A person has actual possession of a drug if he or she has direct physical control or custody over it at a given time. Absent actual possession, a person can constructively possess an item even if the item is not under his or her direct control.
One has constructive possession of a drug if he has knowledge of the substance and has both the ability and intent to exercise control over it, either by himself or through another person.
The issue of possession is determined by all surrounding and facts and circumstances presented by each case. Merely being co-located with or in the vicinity of an item with knowledge of its existence is not sufficient to prove possession for drug crimes. The law requires more.
What Drugs are Considered Controlled Substances
Under Massachusetts law, controlled substances are broken down and categorized by classes. They classes of controlled substances include Class A, Class B, Class C and Class D.
Class A substances include: heroin, GHB (date rape drug), morphine, methamphetamine, codeine, fentanyl, opioids and ketamine.
Class B substances include: cocaine, crack, LSD, PCP, Oxycodone, Percocet, Oxycontin, Ecstasy/MDMA, hydrochloride, amphetamine, methamphetamine
Class C substances include: prescription drugs such as klonopin, diazepam (valium), hydrocodone (Vicodin), Ativan, Xanax, hallucinogens like psilocybin magic mushrooms and mescaline, and clonazepam.
Class D substances include: marijuana (more than one ounce) and hashish.
Class E substances include: less powerful prescription drugs that contain lesser amount of codeine, morphine or opiates.
Potential Punishment if Convicted of Possessing a Controlled Substance
The punishment under Massachusetts criminal law for Possession of a Controlled Substance may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 94C, Section 34.
Defendants convicted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance may be punished by up to one year in jail and/or a fine not exceeding $1000.
Heroin has its own special punishment. Convicted offenders who possess heroin as a first offense face up two years in the house of corrections and/or a fine up to $2000.
Second or subsequent offenses for possessing heroin
Second or subsequent offenses for possessing heroin call for a mandatory term in state prison of not less than 2 ½ years and not more than 5 years or a fine not exceeding $5000 and a term in the house of corrections of not more than 2 ½ years.
If a subsequent offender is sentenced to the house of corrections for possessing heroin, there is no mandatory minimum mail. The mandatory minimum jail term only applies to state prison sentences for defendants convicted of this offense.
Possession of marijuana
Possession of marijuana also has its own special penalties. Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 94C, Section 32L possession of one ounce or less of marihuana is considered a civil violation and not a crime. Convicted offenders must pay a civil penalty of $100.
An offender under age 18 must also attend a drug awareness program, in addition to paying the $100 civil penalty.
Possession of marijuana in a quantity of more than one ounce is punishable by a term in the house of corrections of up to six months and/or a fine of $500.
If you have been charged with Drug Possession and need an experienced Massachusetts Drug Crimes Lawyers call (508) 213-9113 to schedule a free consultation with the Law Offices of John L. Calcagni III.