Massachusetts Drug Crimes: Charged Doesn’t Mean Guilty – Part One of Two

When what you do in your profession involves defending as legal counsel people who have been charged with some very serious crimes, a common question is “How can you defend people who have been accused of such serious crimes?”  My answer, as a Wrentham  Mass. criminal defense attorney, is always the same:  “Because they may be legally innocent.”

Drug crimes are an area that many people misunderstand – or perhaps more accurately, mis-context.  They often assume that anyone charged with a Massachusetts drug offense must be some kind of drug-crazed criminal, or the local version of something like a ‘drug lord.’  Hardly.  In fact, the truth is almost anything but this. Some examples?   Being found by police to be carrying a controlled substance without a prescription on your person.  This could happen while traveling through Logan Airport, or even if stopped in your car by police.   Or providing any of your prescription pain medication to another person because they were in pain and couldn’t locate or get an appointment with their own doctor right away.  Or selling or buying more than an ounce of marijuana to another (yes, pot.)  Or a student who gives some of his or her Ritalin prescription to a friend in advance of exams.  The list goes on and on.  As a Massachusetts drug charges lawyer, I can say with certainty that 85%-90% of my Massachusetts drug charges clients are definitely not dangerous drug criminals.

But aside from this fact, another reason why I defend people accused of Massachusetts drug crimes, is that so often the evidence that police produce is questionable, to say the least.  Let me take you through an extremely brief sequence of what is “supposed to” happen in a Massachusetts drug arrest:  After the suspect is arrested and booked, any and all illegal drugs are required to be inventoried in writing by the arresting officer(s,) with records meticulously recorded in the process.  The substances are then required to be locked away in the police department’s Evidence Room, where they are required to be kept, under lock, before they are then sent to a state drug laboratory for required testing, to determine if the substance is indeed what the police claim it is. Those drug testing reports are then supposed to be reported by the state drug testing lab to the police department that made the arrest, and also to the District Attorney’s Office that is prosecuting the case. You’ll notice that the phrase “supposed to be” is prominent in the above protocol description.

I don’t like the phrase “supposed to be”, because very often what is “supposed to be” done, isn’t done.  And when it comes to drug cases, if drug inventory, custody and testing protocols aren’t followed as they are supposed to be, innocent people can be convicted.  This problem was illustrated a few years ago in the now well-known “Annie Dookhan case,” where a Massachusetts state drug chemist intentionally falsified drug testing reports.

This has now happened again, and I’ll talk about it some more in my next post on this subject, shortly.