Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Affirms Lower Sentence in Case Affected by Change in Mandatory Minimum Sentence Law

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently reached a decision regarding the application of mandatory minimum sentences to defendants who are caught in the middle of sentence reduction law changes.In the case, Commonwealth v. Galvin, Mass: Supreme Judicial Court 2013, the court examined the case of a defendant who was caught in the middle of changes made to G.L. c. 94C, § 32A (d) (§ 32A [d]), which was reduced effective August 2, 2012.

In the case, the defendant had allegedly committed the offense prior to the date that the law changed, but both his conviction and sentencing occurred after the change. The affect of the law was to lower the mandatory minimum sentence from five to 3 1/2 years.

The defendant committed the alleged acts in June of 2011. The new law became active on August 2, 2012. On August 22, 2012, the defendant waived his right to a jury trial, and was found guilty. The Commonwealth requested the mandatory minimum sentence of five years, based on the law that was in place at the time the offense was committed. The judge instead sentenced the defendant to the new mandatory minimum, stating that the law was applicable to those sentenced after the effective date, regardless of when the offense took place.

While generally speaking, newly enacted laws are meant to be prospective, that is not reach backward to cases that occurred before it took place, the court held that laws must be enforced in accordance with their legislative intent. In this case, the court held that after reviewing all of the provisions of the Crime Bill, it was apparent that one of the main purposes of the change was to substantially reduce the mandatory minimum sentences served in these types of drug related offenses.

This was further evidenced by the change in the law that provided that those persons already serving a mandatory minimum sentence under the prior iteration of § 32A (d) (the longer sentence) would be eligible for parole, probation, work release, and deductions in sentence for good conduct. This eligibility further supports the notion that the legislature’s intent was for an overall reduction in time served in these types of cases.

Thus, it concluded, that to interpret the statute such that it did not apply to the defendant’s case would be inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature, and the lower sentence was affirmed.

If you have been charged with possession of marijuana, meth, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, or prescription drugs, you should speak with a Massachusetts drug crimes defense attorney as soon as possible. The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy has extensive experience as a drug possession lawyer representing individuals in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. Contact us today by calling 617-367-0450 or submitting the contact form on our website in order to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decision Strikes Officer Testimony in OUI Cases, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published November 21, 2013
Arrest Made in Connection with Cambridge Break-ins, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published November 14, 2013

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