Whenever you have illicit drugs in your possession, there's a possibility of being arrested and facing charges. This is true in Massachusetts except for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Massachusetts has legalized marijuana and decriminalized marijuana possession for possession of less than an ounce; this is considered a civil citation and no criminal charges will result. However, despite the drug's legality, if you possess more than an ounce, you can be charged with possession in Massachusetts.
Definition of Possession in Massachusetts
Massachusetts law prohibits any individual from knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled substance unless it was obtained from a valid prescription. To be guilty of the offense, you may either have actual possession of the substance, meaning that you're holding the drugs in your hand; in your pocket; or otherwise under your control, such as your car's glove compartment. Regardless, you must have knowledge of the drugs to be guilty of a possession charge.
However, the definition of "possession" is much broader regarding heroin. Massachusetts criminalizes knowingly being in the presence of heroin as a separate charge from possession. This means that if you're present at someone's home or apartment and you know that heroin is anywhere on the premises, you can be charged.
Classification of Controlled Substances in Massachusetts
Your criminal charge is based on the type of drug that you possess. The controlled substances are designated into "classes" ranging from Class A (the most dangerous drugs) to Class E, which are considered the least dangerous. Possession of Class A drugs result in greater penalties; Class E carry the least serious penalties.
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Although it isn't always easy to comprehend complex statutes written in legal jargon, it's still important to understand how the law affects you. An explanation of the statutes written in simple every day terms is one way to begin learning about the law's impact. Read the chart below for an overview on Massachusetts' drug possession laws.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C:
The actual penalties will vary based on the specific facts of the case including factors such as the type of drug involved and the defendant's criminal record.
Punished by imprisonment for not more than one year and/ or a fine of not more than $1,000.
Knowingly present: incarceration up to one year, fine up to $1,000.
Possession (First Time Offense): Imprisonment in a house of correction for up to two years and/or a fine up to $2,000.
Possession (Second or Subsequent Offense): Imprisonment in the state prison for up to five years, or a fine up to $5,000 and imprisonment in jail or house of correction for up to two and a half years.
Possession of Class E Controlled Substances
Less than an ounce of marijuana: $100 fine
More than one ounce of marijuana or a controlled substance in Class E, imprisonment in a house of correction for up to six months, a fine up to $5,000, or both.
Massachusetts has a mandatory minimum jail term for any individual charged with possessing a controlled substance within 100 feet of a school (public or private) or within 100 feet of a playground.
- The substance is not a controlled substance
- Fourth Amendment violations
- Drug paraphernalia; sale, possession or manufacture with intent to sell: Section 32I
- Theft of controlled substance from a registered manufacturer/wholesale druggist/pharmacy: Section 37
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Massachusetts Drug Possession Laws: Related Resources
Discuss Drug Possession with a Massachusetts Attorney
Given the seriousness and complexity of drug possession laws in Massachusetts, you don't want to face charges alone. With an experienced attorney at your side, you can better explore potential options like getting the charges dismissed, negotiating a plea, or fighting the charges at trial.