Drug Crimes in School Zones in Massachusetts

In the recent case Commonwealth v. Thompson, a Massachusetts court considered the conviction of a man charged with selling cocaine in a school zone. While the man’s appeal was pending, the statute related to school zone drug crimes was amended to reduce the radius of the area that is considered a “school zone.” Previously the radius was 1,000 feet, and while the appeal was pending it became 300 feet. An appellate panel ruled initially that the amendment wouldn’t apply retroactively and rejected the defendant’s arguments.

The case arose while the police were patrolling in Cambridge. They watched from an unmarked vehicle as two people sat on the curb next to the parking lot of a convenience store. They were familiar with the parking lot from previous investigations of drug crimes. The two people counted change and were glancing around. The woman stood up and made a call at a pay phone. Soon after, she hung up and came back to the curb. In 10 minutes, the defendant approached on his bike. He didn’t stop but said something to the woman. The woman followed the defendant quickly.

They stopped at a nearby house. They had an exchange that appeared to involve the passing of something between their hands. This happened about 500 feet from the school. The woman continued to pace and returned to the man at the curb. She and the man hurried away, and the defendant got back on his bike and rode off. The detectives pulled into the driveway and approached the house where the man and woman were. The man had a plastic baggie of crack cocaine in his hands, and he dropped it over a nearby fence to drop it.

Backup police arrived as the detectives detained the pair. They retrieved the bag, which had 1 1/2 grams of crack cocaine worth $40-$60. The pair was arrested, and a crack pipe was found on the woman. Other officers detained the defendant, and he was read Miranda warnings. The defendant claimed to understand his rights and wanted to talk to the detective. He explained he was coming from a friend’s house and was searched. The search uncovered $40, some other cash, cigarettes and a lighter, and a cell phone and charger.

The Massachusetts appellate court explained that the evidence gathered was sufficient for a conviction. The defendant had argued that the evidence showed the man was in possession of cocaine all along. However, the police had seen an exchange between the defendant and the woman. After that, the defendant had no drugs, but he did have cash that was about the value of the crack cocaine found on the man.

The appellate court explained that in a recent case it had ruled that the amendment to the school zone law applied retroactively to any cases in which there was a school zone violation for which a guilty plea hadn’t been accepted or a conviction entered. The defendant argued the amendment should extend to his case because he was tried and convicted before the effective date. The court disagreed. It explained the charges were already resolved before the effective date of the amendment. The judgment was affirmed.

If you are arrested for a drug crime, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss your Massachusetts criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.

More Blog Posts:

Larceny in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published August 4, 2014
Protective Sweeps in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published July 8, 2014

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