If you are found guilty of drug trafficking, you will receive a lengthy mandatory minimum state prison sentence. Depending on the weight of the drugs a trafficking conviction results in a mandatory prison sentence of up to 15 years.
With such lengthy mandatory prison terms resulting from a guilty finding, it is essential that you have an attorney who understands street level drug trafficking. Attorney Chris Spring is a former prosecutor who has tried and won these cases. Attorney Spring is experienced in dissecting the Commonwealth’s case and aggressively challenging the government’s evidence.A Former Prosecutor Who Understands Drug Cases
Attorney Spring has tried hundreds of criminal cases, including allegations of drug trafficking. Contact Attorney Spring to schedule a free consultation at your home to discuss the facts of your case and your possible defenses. Attorney Spring accepts cases from the cities and towns of Middlesex, Essex, Suffolk, Worcester, and Norfolk Counties.Elements of Drug Trafficking
In order to convict a defendant of drug trafficking, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant distributed (sold or gave) some perceptible amount of a controlled substance to another person or persons, or possessed a perceptible amount of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute the substance to another person or persons;
- The defendant did so knowingly or intentionally; and
- The drugs exceeded a certain weight. This is the primary factor in sentencing.
Attorney Spring has mounted successful defenses under both the distribution theory (evidence of a transaction) and the intent to distribute theory (circumstantial evidence of intending to deal the drugs rather than use them personally). He has also successfully defended drug cases on Fourth Amendment grounds relating to search warrants, informants, illegal searches and seizures, and unconstitutional traffic stops.What Amount Constitutes Trafficking?
- More than 50 pounds but less than 100 pounds carries a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in county jail.
- More than 100 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in state prison.
- More than 2,000 pounds but less than 10,000 pounds carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years in state prison.
- More than 10,000 pounds carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 8 years in state prison.
- Between 18 and 36 grams carries a mandatory minimum of 2 years in state prison.
- Between 36 and 100 grams carries a mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years in state prison.
- Between 100 grams and 200 grams carries a mandatory minimum of 8 years in state prison.
- Over 200 grams carries a mandatory minimum of 12 years in state prison.
- Between 18 and 36 grams carries a mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years in state prison.
- Between 36 and 100 grams carries a mandatory minimum of 5 years in state prison.
- Between 100 and 200 grams carries a mandatory minimum of 8 years in state prison.
- Over 200 grams carries a mandatory minimum of 12 years in state prison.
There are also drug trafficking thresholds for methamphetamine (meth), ecstasy, prescription medications and other controlled substances.Drug Trafficking Defenses Under A Possession With Intent To Distribute Theory
Motions to Suppress are very common in cases charging possession with intent to distribute narcotics. Ordinarily the police need to search the defendant to determine that he or she is in possession of the controlled substance. On many occasions, a police officer’s search of the defendant violates the defendant’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches. In these cases, Attorney Spring files and aggressively litigates motions to suppress the narcotics.Possession of Drugs with Intent to Distribute or Straight Possession?
Many of these cases turn on whether the drugs seized from the defendant were intended for personal use or for resale to somebody else. The jury is asked to determine what the defendant intended to do with the drugs. How does the jury determine the defendant’s intent?
The Commonwealth will call a drug detective to testify at trial as a “street level narcotics expert.” The detective will try to convince the jury that the defendant was planning to sell the drugs based on some or all of the following factors.
- Packaging of the Narcotics – Drug dealers generally buy large quantities of narcotics and break them down into small quantities for resale. Therefore, if a defendant is caught with a medium-sized bag of cocaine, he or she might be able to argue that the drugs were for his or her own personal use. However, if the defendant is caught with 15 individually wrapped bags of cocaine, there is an inference that the defendant was planning to sell the smaller packages.
- Possession of Packaging Materials – Drug dealers need materials to break down large quantities of drugs into smaller quantities. Such materials might include a digital scale (used to weigh the smaller packages of drugs) and plastic baggies.
- Possession of Cutting Agents – Drug dealers often add a cutting agent to the drugs to increase the amount of the drug available for resale. For example, a drug dealer might have six grams of cocaine. Instead of breaking down the cocaine into six one-gram packages, the dealer will first mix the six grams of cocaine with four grams of baking soda. The dealer will then have 10 grams of diluted cocaine to sell (instead of the original six grams).
- Possession of Multiple Pagers or Cell phones – In order to keep in contact with their clients, drug dealers often carry more than one pager or cell phone to be constantly available.
- Possession of Large Quantities of Cash – Drug dealing is obviously a cash business, so drug detectives take note of large quantities of cash.
- Ledger Sheets – Drug dealers often will keep track of their clients, along with their orders and the amount of money they owe, on small sheets of paper.
- Lack of Paraphernalia – If a defendant is found with a large amount of heroin but no needle, spoon, cotton balls, or lighter, an inference can be drawn that the defendant did not intend to shoot the heroin.
If some or all of these factors are applicable to a defendant, the prosecutor will argue that the circumstantial evidence establishes that the defendant intended to sell the drugs rather than use them personally. Of course, Attorney Spring will argue that there are innocent explanations for each of these seemingly damaging facts. Evidence such as the defendant’s medical records can establish long-term drug dependency. Attorney Spring will fully investigate each case to make the most compelling argument that the drugs were for personal use rather than distribution.Drug Trafficking Defenses Under A Distribution Theory
Confidential Informants are often used by police departments to set up drug dealers. A confidential informant is generally an individual who has been arrested for drug possession. The police or the district attorney agree to not charge the individual or to offer a favorable plea deal if the individual either provides information to the police about a drug dealer or participates in a controlled drug buy.
- A controlled drug buy involves the police giving the informant a sum of money and watching as the informant purchases drugs from the defendant. While this may seem like an open and shut case, in order for the Commonwealth to prevail, it is required to identify the confidential informant. Many times, the district attorney and the police are unwilling to provide the identity of the confidential informant to the defendant, and these cases are generally dismissed.
- If the confidential informant provides information to the police that allows the police to obtain a search warrant, there may be a valid motion to suppress the drugs. Courts reviewing search warrants based on information provided by confidential informants apply a very strict standard to ensure the reliability of the informant’s information. Attorney Spring has won motions to suppress by challenging the information provided by confidential informants.
Cases charging distribution of drugs are often difficult to prove. A common fact pattern involves the police observing what they believe to be a hand-to-hand transaction between a drug dealer and a drug user. Different teams of police officers will then separately stop the alleged buyer and the alleged dealer. The buyer will generally turn over drugs and tell the police that he or she just bought drugs from the defendant. The police will then seize money from the defendant that was supposedly used to buy the drugs. While this may seem like another strong case for the Commonwealth, the drug buyer rarely appears in court to testify against the dealer. Therefore, any statements made by the buyer are inadmissible against the defendant. Without the buyer’s testimony, these types of cases are extremely defensible. Attorney Spring has extensive experience defending these types of cases.
Because a conviction for drug trafficking results in serious consequences, including mandatory prison time, you need to be represented by an attorney with extensive experience in litigating such cases. As an assistant district attorney earlier in his career, Attorney Spring prosecuted hundreds of drug cases, from straight possession charges to trafficking. Since forming Spring & Spring, he has successfully defended hundreds of people charged with drug crimes.