Possession with Intent to Distribute Drugs in Massachusetts

It is a felony to distribute or possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance in Massachusetts, if the substance falls into class A, B, or C. Distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance that falls into class D or E is a misdemeanor. Class B drugs include cocaine, crack cocaine, or methamphetamine.

Section 32A of Chapter 94C provides that conviction of manufacturing, distribution, or intent to distribute is punished by up to 10 years in state prison and up to a $10,000 fine. With a prior similar drug crime conviction, the mandatory minimum is two years in state prison. Those serving a mandatory minimum for this offense are only eligible for parole after serving half of the maximum term of the sentence if the sentence is to the house of correction, unless there is a finding of an aggravating circumstance, such as use of a firearm or threats of violence.

Possession with intent to distribute is a charge that usually relies on circumstantial evidence, and intent can be proved by evidence showing you had multiple individually wrapped baggies of drugs and large amounts of cash. Often, these charges can be defended by arguing that the way the police found the evidence was illegal.

In Commonwealth v. Morency, a panel of the appellate court considered a case in which a defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The defendant made a motion for a required finding of not guilty in a jury-waived trial. He didn’t dispute cocaine possession, but rather that there was insufficient evidence to convict him for intent to distribute. He argued that there was too much conjecture in the inferences made to satisfy the intent element.

The appellate court explained that intent can be inferred from any reasonable basis derived from facts provided at trial. The evidence does not need to be such that it requires a fact-finding judge to make an inference, only that it permits that judge to make it. The inferences cannot be piled upon each other to make the final finding. Arguing against the defendant’s appeal, the Commonwealth argued that the facts and circumstances allowed the judge to infer intent to distribute.

The court explained that multiple factors determined the intent to distribute. The record in this case showed multiple indications that the defendant intended to distribute. The defendant had approached an undercover officer’s car after the officer asked, using drug-selling terminology, whether he had $40 worth of crack cocaine. The defendant responded that he had some. He reached into his pocket while coming towards the vehicle. He had the cocaine packaged in five individual bags. He told the police he didn’t use cocaine, and he didn’t have a smoking device or other paraphernalia. An experienced officer had testified at trial that keeping five individual bags of crack, with no smoking paraphernalia, was consistent with intent to distribute.

The court concluded that the testimony about the individual bags, the defendant’s understanding of the terminology, his denial of personal use, and lack of paraphernalia were sufficient for the judge to conclude the defendant possessed cocaine with intent to distribute.

The consequences of a conviction for possession with intent to distribute can be severe. If you are charged with a drug crime, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.

More Blog Posts:

Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015
Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014

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