On April 13, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a new bill that made a number of important changes to the Massachusetts Criminal Justice System. Some of the most significant changes for criminal defendants relate to the re-organization of certain drug laws.

Fentanyl and other opioids

Given the national opioid crisis in the country, the Massachusetts Legislature used this bill to address some of the laws related to certain synthetic opioids. First, multiple varieties of fentanyl and carfentanil have been re-defined as “Class A” drugs. Possession or distribution charges for Class A drugs are generally harsher than for other lower classes of drugs. Prior to this new law, fentanyl was a Class B drug, and some synthetic opioids such as carfentanil were not listed under any classification. Other aspects of the law were also amended to include synthetic opioids in areas where they were previously excluded. If you are charged with a drug offense involving fentanyl or another synthetic opioid, you should contact an experienced Massachusetts drug attorney.

Along with these changes, the crime of being in the presence of heroin has been repealed. Therefore, while the consequences for alleged users and dealers of opioids have increased, innocent friends and relatives of such users are no longer subject to potential criminal penalties based on their mere presence.

Mandatory Minimums

Prior to this bill, charges of distribution of certain drugs carried mandatory minimum sentences of incarceration. The new bill has abandoned this approach for certain drugs, allowing for more discretion in the defense and prosecution of these offenses. Specifically, there are no longer mandatory minimum sentences for distribution of cocaine, distribution of PCP, and distribution of methamphetamines. Additionally, mandatory minimum sentences for second offense distribution charges for any Class B, C, or D drugs have been eliminated. Finally, mandatory minimum sentences have also been eliminated for charges of selling drug paraphernalia. Despite the repeal of mandatory minimums, drug distribution charges still subject a person to serious penalties, and experienced representation by a Massachusetts drug lawyer should be obtained.

School zones

Finally, the penalties associated with distribution of drugs in a school zone have been limited. Specifically, these penalties now only apply to distribution in a school zone, between 5:00 AM and 12:00 AM, where there is the use of violence or a firearm, coercion or direction of sale, or sale to minors. If charged with distribution of a drug in a school zone, an experienced drug lawyer should be retained to assist you in making sure you are accurately charged under the reformed law, and represent you through your case.