Drug Distribution / Trafficking Charges
Boston Drug Distribution Charges – Massachusetts Drug Trafficking Defense Attorney
Boston Drug Charge Defense Lawyer Steven J. Topazio
In most drug charges cases, your defense will focus on the suppression of illegally obtained drugs and contraband. Boston Drug Charge Defense Lawyer Steven J. Topazio has successfully challenged law enforcement’s search and seizure methods; use of confidential informants or CIs; search warrants; wire tapes and controlled drug buy procedures. Drug convictions depend on the prosecutor’s ability to successfully admit the drugs that was seized from you into evidence at trial. If the evidence is suppressed the case against you will typically be dismissed. Attorney Topazio will investigate the procedures used to search your person, car or home and challenge any evidence he believes was illegally obtained so as to prevent it from being used against you at trial. Email him today for a prompt response to your legal issue.
Why Hire a Massachusetts Drug Distribution / Trafficking Defense Attorney?
An experienced Massachusetts Drug Distribution / Trafficking Defense Attorney understands the law governing search and seizure. A police officer is only allowed to search your person or your private property if he has probable cause -a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. Without probable cause or consent from the person to be searched, the searches and seizures can be challenged in court and if successful, the evidence will be suppressed.
Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Steven J. Topazio has successfully challenged evidence in drug cases. Experienced criminal defense lawyers know that attacking the evidence through a Motion to Suppress when drugs are illegally seized is the best way to fight the case. Attorney Topazio has successfully challenged the tactics employed by the police when the evidence they have seized with the help of a confidential informant or through a so called controlled drug buy violated the rights of the accused. Contact him to schedule a free confidential consultation.
The offense of drug trafficking refers primarily to the weight of the substances possessed and not the movement or transportation of the drugs. Essentially drug trafficking is the accusation that you possessed a certain quantity of controlled substances when the drugs weigh a certain amount.
If you have been charged with a drug trafficking crime in Massachusetts, you will be facing serious charges and mandatory sentences if convicted. A judge has no flexibility in sentencing when it comes to mandatory sentences and must sentence a defendant to the mandatory minimum, regardless of the circumstances. When so much is on the line, you need an aggressive, experienced attorney to fight the charges and defend you in court. Boston Criminal Attorney Steven J. Topazio believes in the jury system and your right to a vigorous defense, and knows how to execute his strategies in the courtroom to get the charges against you dismissed. Contact him to learn how he can help you.
Know Your Rights
The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. In drug cases, the legality of the way the drugs were seized is frequently challenged. If the government violated the Constitution, the drugs cannot be used as evidence. Without evidence to prove the charges, the government may have to dismiss the case. The quantity of drugs also plays a significant role in determining if one is simply in possession for personal use, or possessing with intent to distribute, or trafficking. Other items found with the drugs such as drug paraphernalia, needles, pipes, bongs, plastic bags, rolling paper, large quantities of money, cell phones, beepers, lists of names with a dollar figure next to the name, etc. are all used by the police to convince the courts that one is selling drugs.
If you have been charged with a drug crime, Boston criminal defense attorney Steven J. Topazio can advise you whether the evidence leading to the charges may have resulted from an illegal search and seizure. Email us to discuss your options for defense.
The Penalties for Illegal Search and Seizure
To ensure that police officers respect individuals’ constitutional rights, the U.S. Supreme Court provides strict penalties. If the police perform an illegal search, the evidence they obtain as a result of this search will not be allowed by the prosecutor. This means that if the police search you without probable cause, even if they find drugs, they will not be allowed to present this evidence to a jury. Illegal search and seizure is one of the strongest defenses available for any criminal matter. Boston criminal defense attorney Steven J. Topazio can help you understand your rights and remedies following an illegal search and seizure. Email us today for a prompt response to your legal questions.
In Massachusetts there are 5 classifications of drugs that an individual can be accused of according to G.L. c. 94C § 31. An example of where a drug might be classified is as follows:
* Class A – Heroin
* Class B – Cocaine
* Class C – Certain narcotic prescription medications link Clonazepam, Diazepam, amphetamines, etc.
* Class D – Marijuana
* Class E – Steroids
Consequences of Conviction
A conviction of serious drug crimes involving sale or distribution can result in mandatory penalties. The following are a list of some of the penalties one can face in Massachusetts:
* 18 to 35 grams of Cocaine = 2 years mandatory jail
* 36 to 99 grams of Cocaine = 3 1/2 years mandatory jail
* 100 to 199 grams of Cocaine = 8 years mandatory jail
* 200 grams or more of Cocaine = 12 years mandatory jail
* 50lbs to 99lbs of Marijuana = 1 year mandatory jail
* 100lbs to 1999lbs of Marijuana = 2 years mandatory jail
* 2000lbs to 9999lbs of Marijuana = 3 1/2 years mandatory jail
* 10000lbs or more of Marijuana = 8 years mandatory jail
Distribution of any drug within 300 feet of the property comprising a public or private accredited school if the violation occurs between 5:00 am and midnight, whether or not in session, is mandatory two (2) year jail sentence to run from and after the expiration of the underlying sentence.
Distribution of any drug within 100 feet of a public park or playground is a mandatory two (2) years in jail on and after the expiration of the underlying sentence. A qualified attorney will know the necessary requirements for what constitutes a school and how the distance is measured.
Comprehensive Investigation and Case-Building
Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Topazio is prepared to investigate every aspect of the allegations and circumstances of your case, in order to identify the right strategy and build an aggressive defense on your behalf. If you are facing charges you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can adequately protect your rights and raise a strong defense on your behalf. Contact Steven for a free confidential consultation.
RECENT CASE DECISIONS
Distribution of Class D Marijuana MGL c 94C § 32C(a); Motion for New Trial granted, conviction vacated; charges dismissed after Commonwealth fails to prosecute.
- Steven Topazio wrote this June 12, 2019 at 6:09 pm
The client, a 56-year-old individual, came to the United States from Honduras in 1989 and is not a United States citizen. Working for the same employer for the last seven years doing maintenance work, the client was summonsed to court in 2001 and charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana in a school zone. The client was represented by counsel back in 2001 and due to the nature of the charges, was told he would be incarcerated if convicted, so he agreed to a plea bargain where he pled guilty to distribution of marijuana and received a 2 year suspended sentence in exchange for the Commonwealth agreeing to dismiss the school zone charge, which carried a mandatory 2 year committed sentence if convicted. The client successfully completed his probation but now faced deportation consequences several years later due to the drug conviction and hired Attorney Topazio to see if he could vacate the guilty conviction. Attorney Topazio obtained the old police report which read: “as part of an ongoing investigation into drug and gang activity PO’s observed a known drug dealer and S/P above involved in a drug transaction. PO’s approached S/P above and asked if he had any drugs and S/P took a large P/B out of his waistband area containing marijuana, a separate medium P/B containing marijuana and numerous heat sealed bags….”. Attorney Topazio filed a motion for new trial alleging ineffective assistance of counsel arguing that his client was scared when he changed his plea and feared that he might go to jail if convicted due to the school zone charge, lose his job along with his ability to provide for his family, and did not understand the immigration consequences. Attorney Topazio argued that his client was confused by the charges as he denied being involved in any drug distribution criminal activity and was not explained his immigration consequences when he chose to follow the advice of plea counsel, believing it was his only option in a new and difficult circumstance, to avoid going to jail on a school zone violation. Attorney Topazio argued that his client tendered a guilty plea on the distribution charge in consideration of the Assistant District Attorney dismissing the School Zone charge prior to a change in the law which now places a burden on defense counsel to explain the immigration consequences to their client. Attorney Topazio argued that a defendant’s guilty plea should be vacated, and a new trial ordered, as if it appeared that justice may not have been done in this case, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel for plea counsel’s failure of not explaining the immigration consequences to the client. The court agreed with Attorney Topazio relying on the case of Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473, 1480-81 (2010) that a defense counsel’s failure to correctly advise a defendant of immigration consequences of his guilty plea is grounds for allowing a motion for new trial, especially where the immigration consequences are clear. The Motion for New trial was granted by the court, vacating the client’s previous admission/conviction thus reopening the case. Attorney Topazio scheduled the case for trial and had the case dismissed by the court on the day of trial when the Commonwealth was not prepared to proceed.
Suffolk Superior Court
Trafficking over 14 grams – Heroin MGL c. 94C § 32E
The client, a 45 year old South Boston native, hired Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Steven J. Topazio to defend him after he was arrested and charged with trafficking in heroin, a Class A drug, and held in custody on bail. According to the police report, the client was arrested for shoplifting CDs and food from a convenience store and was found in possession of over $4000.00 and 96 bags of heroin. The heroin was tested and weighed over 25 grams, which resulted in the client facing a trafficking charge which included a 3 year mandatory minimum sentence. Following his arrest the client was sectioned to Bridgewater State Hospital pursuant to MGL c. 123 § 35 due to his substance addiction problem, then committed to the Shattuck Hospital for 2 ½ months. At the time of his arrest, the client was also on probation out of the Hingham District Court. The client received a sentence on the Hingham case of two (2) year House of Corrections, with six (6) months committed, balance suspended, and was now in violation of the terms of that probation due to the trafficking arrest. The client defaulted on the Hingham case due to being held in custody on bail on the trafficking case complicating his release from custody. Attorney Topazio met with the prosecutor and was able to negotiate a reduction in the charges for his client in the Suffolk Superior Court case, from trafficking to possession with intent to distribute, and the court agreed. The trafficking charge was amended to possession with intent to distribute Class A substance and the client received a sentence of eighteen (18) months to the House of Corrections, 328 days to serve, deemed served, with the balance suspended. Among his conditions of probation, the client was ordered to submit to random urine testing and to remain drug and alcohol free. Attorney Topazio next appeared in the Hingham District Court after his client was released from custody and was successful in persuading the Court to terminate the Hingham probation without his client having to serve any additional time, despite the probation officer’s request that his client be further committed.
Result: Trafficking charge amended to lesser offense of Possession with intent to distribute Heroin, and client avoids mandatory 3 year prison sentence on change of plea.
June 4, 2014
Peabody District Court
Possession with intent to distribute Class D Marijuana, Subsequent Offense MGL c. 94C § 32C(b)
The client, a 49 year old laborer, hired Attorney Topazio after he was arrested by Saugus and State Police when 23 pounds of marijuana were recovered in 3 packages that were shipped to his home from California, and charged with Possession with intent to distribute Class D Marijuana, Subsequent Offense. According to the police, authorities were alerted to the shipments after a Postal Inspectors, who routinely reviews Express Mail parcels and receipts to detect individuals using the mails to illegally transport controlled substances and proceeds from the sale of controlled substances, became suspicious of several packages addressed to the client. During the course of the investigation, the United States Customs and Border Protection Officer and his canine dog were called in to analyze three packages to be delivered to the client. The K-9 sniffed the packages which the Postal Inspector believed contained narcotics, and gave a positive alert, confirming the Inspector’s suspicions. The K-9 alert was used to establish probable cause to obtain a Search Warrant to seize the packages that were ultimately delivered to the client. Attorney Topazio challenged the search warrant as well as the controlled delivery of the packages to the client. Because the client had previously been convicted of this offense, he was facing enhanced punishment for the subsequent offence which included a term of imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not less than one nor more than two and one-half years. Attorney Topazio moved the case to trial after rejecting the Commonwealth’s offer of a 2 year committed sentence. Prior to trial, Attorney Topazio persuaded the Court to offer his client a lessor committed sentence of 15 months, but still rejected the offer and prepared the case for trial. Today, on the day of trial, despite the overwhelming evidence against his client, Attorney Topazio persuaded the Commonwealth to reduce the charge against his client to a first offense upon serving a 9 month committed sentence, and the client agreed to the reduced sentence.
Result: Client avoids a 15 month committed sentence by accepting a 9 month committed sentence upon a plea to a lesser charge.
May 27, 2014
Chelsea District Court
Conspiracy to violate Drug law MGL c 94C § 40
Distribution of Class B Drug MGL c 94C § 32A(a)
Possession to distribute Class B Drug MGL c 94C § 32A(a)
The client was arrested for allegedly engaging in a hand to hand drug deal with an undercover officer, was represented by Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Steven J. Topazio. According to the police report, the Chelsea Police Drug Unit was conducting an undercover operation in Bellingham Square where an undercover police officer, looking to buy cocaine, was introduced to the client as a person who would sell him cocaine. After a brief conversation, the undercover allegedly gave the client marked police buy money in exchange for cocaine. After the transaction, the client was arrested by other officers and found to be in possession of the previously photographed police buy money. Despite the strength of the Commonwealth’s case, Attorney Topazio was able to get all charges against his client dismissed.
Result: All charges dismissed at trial.
February 19, 2014
Boston Municipal Court
Possession to Distribute Class B, M.G.L. c.94C § 32A
School Zone Violation M.G.L. c.94C § 32J
The client was seen by Boston Police taking part in a drug transaction and was arrested as an adult (while being the age of 17) for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in a school zone. According to the police report, the Boston Police officers were conducting a drug investigation in the downtown Boston area after numerous citizens reported an increase in drug sales and usage. Following the client’s arrest, on September 18, 2013, An Act to Expand Juvenile Jurisdiction, Increase Public Safety and Protect Children from Harm was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick. St. 2013, c. 84 , extending the Juvenile Court’s jurisdiction to all individuals up to and including the age of 17. As a result of this new law, Boston Criminal Attorney Steven Topazio filed a motion to remand his client’s case to juvenile court or in alternative to dismiss all charges against his client due to a lack of jurisdiction. Attorney Topazio argued that although statutes generally operate prospectively this new statute should apply retroactively because its observance would involve a construction inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature and would be repugnant to the context of the statute. Attorney Topazio argued that the primary objective of the Act is to protect 17 year olds from the harm that arises out of adult prosecution and adult incarceration. Despite the strong case against his client, Attorney Topazio persuaded the court to dismiss all charges over the prosecutor’s objections.
January 24, 2014
Chelsea District Court
Docket # 1314CR1793
Possession to Distribute Class D, Subsequent MGL c94C § 32C(b)
Failure to Yield MGL c89 § 8
Search and Seizure
The client, a 31-year old restaurant employee, was arrested during the course of a routine motor vehicle stop. The police report indicates that after the client’s motor vehicle was stopped, State Police searched the client’s car after smelling an odor of marijuana and found a quantity of marihuana in a backpack, hired Boston Criminal Attorney Steven J. Topazio to defend him. Attorney Topazio filed a motion to suppress evidence arguing that following the decriminalization of less than an ounce of marijuana (MGL 94C § 32L), the mere smell of marijuana raises only an outside possibility that someone has more than an ounce in their possession to justify a search. The mere smell of marijuana Attorney Topazio argued, is not reliable evidence so as to establish that a party has more than an ounce on him so as to subject him to a search. Attorney Topazio argued that his client exhibited no characteristics of impairment therefore the trooper did not have probable cause to believe that the client was operating under the influence of marijuana so as to create probable cause to search. Since the client was not engaged in any type of criminal activity or presented a danger to the trooper or others Attorney Topazio argued that the search was not justified and the court agreed. Today Attorney Topazio persuaded the court to dismiss all charges against his client.
Result: Case dismissed.
October 28, 2013
East Boston District Court
Docket # 1105CR0814
Possession with intent to Distribute Class D – Marijuana–MGL c. 94C § 32C(a)
Notice of Probation Violation and Hearing
The client, a 28 year old father of one, was on probation after pleading guilty to a drug offense and receiving a 2 year suspended sentence, when he was arrested by State Police after police smelled marijuana coming from his car. After a warrantless search, marijuana was discovered in the passenger’s belongings, and the client was charged with a subsequent possession with intent to distribute class D charge, hired Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Steven J. Topazio to defend him. The client received a notice of probation violation where he was facing 2 years in jail upon a probation violation. Attorney Topazio attacked the underlying case alleging that marijuana found in the client’s motor vehicle that he occupied with another individual was not sufficient to charge him with possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Attorney Topazio argued that where no facts are articulated to support probable cause to believe that a criminal amount of contraband may be found in a vehicle with his passenger, then a neutral magistrate would not issue a search warrant, and therefore a warrantless search is not justified based solely on the smell of marijuana. Today, Attorney Topazio persuaded the court to find no probation violation despite the new arrest and pending criminal charges.
Result: No probation violation found.
October 21, 2013 br>Malden District Court
Docket # 1250CR2268
Possession with intent to Distribute Class D – Marijuana–MGL c. 94C § 32C(a)
School Zone Violation MGL c. 94C § 32J
The client, a 23 year old barber, was arrested by Malden Police after they executed a search warrant at the client’s house and found a quantity of marijuana and packaging materials, hired Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Steven J. Topazio to defend him. The police further alleged that the client possessed marijuana with the intent to distribute within 300 feet of a school/daycare, exposing him to mandatory jail time. The basis for the search warrant was five controlled buys at the client’s home with a cooperating informant. A “Controlled Drug” buy in Massachusetts is when the police have an informant purchase drugs in attempt to establish probable cause to search the alleged seller’s residence for illegal narcotics. Because of the high level of police investigation into obtaining the search warrant in this case Attorney Topazio realized a motion to suppress to attack probable cause might not have been successful, so he attacked the credentials of the school instead to get rid of the school zone charge. The prosecutor identified Little Rascals Family Childcare as a child care or daycare center licensed with EEC as the named school. In Massachusetts, a license is required to provide most childcare services by the Department of Education, office of Early Education & Care Programs (EEC) and if someone is to run a daycare service out of their home, EEC requires the homeowner to be licensed with the state. Although the prosecutor claimed Little Rascals Day Care was a school licensed with EEC, and a school for purposes of the school zone statute, Attorney Topazio proved there was no active license with the EEC and filed a motion to dismiss the school zone charge arguing that it did not qualify as a school under the statute. Today, Attorney Topazio obtained a dismissal of the school zone charge but because of the strength of the Commonwealth’s case, the client decided to tender a change of plea on the remaining charge. Despite the prosecutor’s recommendation of a guilty finding on the possession with intent to distribute charge because of five controlled drug buys, Attorney Topazio convinced the court to give his client a continuance without a finding.
Result: School zone charge dismissed and Client avoids mandatory jail time and receives continuance without a finding.
May 29, 2013
Eastern Hampshire District Court
Docket # 1298CR3101
Possession of Class B Substance (Ecstasy) MGL c.94C § 34
Possession with Intent to Distribute Class B MGL c. 94C § 32A
Distribution of Class B Substance MGL c.94C §32A
Possession of Class B Substance (Cocaine) MGL c.94C § 34
A 22 year old college student, charged with two counts of possession of Class B substance, (cocaine and ecstasy), Possession with Intent to Distribute Class B substance and Distribution of a Class B substance, hired Boston Criminal Attorney Steven J. Topazio to defend him following his arrest at school. The client was arrested by college police after the client sold cocaine to an undercover police officer. Attorney Topazio discovered that his client was not the initial focus of police investigation. According to a police narrative, police contact was made with a source of information that identified a third party student living in a residence hall at a university who was selling cocaine. Though text messages, the officer was able to negotiate the purchase of cocaine with the third party student. Prior to the initial scheduled sale of cocaine negotiated by the third party student and the police, the third party student notified the undercover officer that she was too busy to complete the sale but that her friend (the client), would do it for her. The officer met with the client to purchase 1 gram of cocaine for $80. Before the officer completed the transaction, she gave the client $70 instead of $80 and stated that that was all she had and that he could break off a piece of the rock-like substance, which he did do, to adjust for the price. The client was thereafter arrested and charged with distribution, including possessing with intent to distribute the pieced of cocaine he broke off at the officer’s request. The Commonwealth failed to charge the client with distribution in a school zone and before the Commonwealth brought out new charges, Attorney Topazio advised his client to tender a change of plea in order to avoid the more serious charges being filed. Attorney Topazio used his client’s lack of sophistication with the drug transaction to his advantage. Despite the Commonwealth requesting that the client be found guilty, Attorney Topazio obtained letters of recommendation from school faculty and friends and prepared a sentencing memorandum for the court. Attorney Topazio was able to convince the court to dismiss the Possession with Intent to Distribute Class B substance (cocaine) and possession of ecstasy charges and to give his client a continuance without finding (CWOF) on the felony Distribution charge and possession of cocaine charge despite the Commonwealth’s insistence on a guilty finding.
Result: Two counts dismissed and client accepts CWOF on two counts and avoids jail time and a felony conviction on his record.
May 10, 2013
Boston Municipal Court
Docket # 1001CR6585
Operating after Suspension MGL c. 90 § 23
Possession with Intent to Distribute Class A MGL c. 94 § 32
School Zone MGL c.94 § 32J
Possession with Intent to Distribute Class A, Subsequent MGL c. 94 § 32
A 43 year old individual who was convicted of operating after suspension, Possession with Intent to Distribute Class A Substance and School Zone violation after a plea of guilty received a two (2) year committed sentence to the House of Corrections. While serving his sentence, the client retained Boston Criminal Attorney Steven J. Topazio after the client learned that the drugs in his case may have been tainted during the testing process. Attorney Topazio discovered that Chemist Annie Dookhan of Hinton lab in Jamaica Plain carried out the testing on the alleged controlled substances in his client’s case. Ms. Dookhan has since been identified by law enforcement officials as a person who intentionally contaminated drug evidence to ensure positive tests, inflated drug sample weights, falsified drug analysis findings and fraudulently altered the chain of custody documents during a time period relevant to this case. As a consequence of that investigation, two other laboratory supervisions have been suspended, and the drug laboratory has been shut down. As a result of the Dookhan investigation, Attorney Topazio filed a motion for a new trail, a motion to withdraw guilty plea and a motion for post conviction discovery. Attorney Topazio argued that the Commonwealth relied upon tainted drug analysis documents and testimony to carry its burden of proof at the plea in his new client’s case. As a result of the misconduct of Ms. Dookhan and/or other employees of Hinton lab, Attorney Topazio argued that his client was deprived of due process by the failure of the Commonwealth to provide true and accurate discovery in violation of Fourteenth Amendment and Article 14. Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). As a result of Ms. Dookhan’s conduct, Attorney Topazio claimed that his client’s guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary, and therefore violated his client’s rights. The motion for a new trial was allowed by the court by agreement. Attorney Topazio was able to convince the court to accept a new disposition of 3 months continuance without finding (CWOF) in lieu of retrying the case.
Result: Motion for New Trial Allowed and guilty conviction vacated.
March 13, 2013
Boston Municipal Court – Central Division
Docket # 1201CR0915
Distribution of Counterfeit Drug M.G.L. c. 94C § 32G
Possess to Distribution of Counterfeit Drug M.G.L. c. 94C § 32G
Resisting Arrest M.G.L. c. 268 § 32B
Assault and Battery on Public Employee M.G.L. c. 265 § 13D
Disturbing the Peace M.G.L. c. 272 § 53
Possession to Distribute Class E M.G.L. c. 94C § 32D
School Zone Violation M.G.L. c. 94C § 32J
The client, a 44 year old father of one, was arrested for selling a counterfeit substance in response to an undercover officer looking to buy “hard”. The police report indicates that the defendant had no controlled substances on him nor attempted to sell any controlled substances but that his girlfriend had a Class E substance on her when she came to her boyfriend’s aid when he attempted to flee police. Boston Criminal Attorney Steven J. Topazio, who represented the client, initially challenged the complaint filed against his client with a motion to dismiss. The complaint procedure is a judicial process in which clerks and judges of the District
Court serve a grand jury-type function to determine whether a person is to be charged as a defendant in a criminal case. The magistrate must decide if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the accused committed it. After argument, the court partially granted Attorney Topazio’s Motion to dismiss. After answering ready for trial six times, today Attorney Topazio persuaded the court to dismiss all charges against his client.
Result: Case dismissed at trial.
February 15, 2013
Suffolk Superior Court
Docket # SUCR: 2012-10467
Trafficking over 14 grams of Class A Heroin M.G.L. c. 94C § 32E
The client, a 44 year old unemployed father of one, was arrested for trafficking over 14 grams of heroin and held on $50,000 bail. When arrested, the client had over 22 grams of heroin on his person as well as over $4100.00, initially hired a private attorney to represent him. As a result of the case languishing in Superior Court for several months with little progress, the client discharged his attorney and hired Boston Criminal Attorney Steven J. Topazio to defend him. Boston Criminal Lawyer Topazio met with his client and developed a case strategy. Discovery motions were filed as well as motions to suppress evidence. The client wanted to avoid trial as well as a potential 5 year mandatory jail sentence. Trafficking over 14 grams of heroin carries a mandatory sentence of 5 to 20 years in state prison. The statute reads “Fourteen grams or more but less than twenty-eight grams, be punished by a term of imprisonment in the state prison for not less than five nor more than twenty years. No sentence imposed under the provisions of this clause shall be for less than a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of not less than five thousand nor more than fifty thousand dollars may be imposed but not in lieu of the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment, as established herein.” Today, after months of intense negotiation, Attorney Topazio was able to persuade that Assistant District Attorney to reduce the charges against his client from trafficking to possession with intent to distribute heroin, (a non-mandatory crime) and to plea him to a split sentence of 18 months to the house of correction, 328 days to serve, deemed served, with the balance suspended for 18 months on the condition that he remain drug and alcohol free and submit to random urines, and the court agreed.
Result: Charges reduced and client released from custody on split sentence thus avoiding a mandatory 5 year prison sentence.
February 06, 2013
Boston Municipal Court – Central Division
Docket # 1101CR2195
Distribution of Class A M.G.L. c. 94C § 32
Distribution of Class A Subsequent M.G.L. c. 94C § 32
School Zone Violation M.G.L. c. 94C § 32J
The client, a 62 year retiree, was arrested by Boston Police Officer who were acting in an undercover capacity, observed the client get into a motor vehicle on Hanover Street in Boston, drive around the block, then get out again after allegedly doing nothing. During the ride the vehicle did not stop nor interact with any individuals. When the client exited the vehicle, the officers characterized the ride as a “classic meaningless ride” for the sole purpose of exchanging drugs. The client was arrested and charged with distribution after heroin was discovered in the motor vehicle after a police stop. The client retained Attorney Steven J. Topazio to defend him. Attorney Topazio filed a motion to suppress evidence alleging, among other things, that the police violated his client’s rights through a target-oriented search of the motor vehicle in which the drugs were found. Target standing is when the police violate the rights of the “little fish” so as to catch the “bigger fish”. Attorney Topazio argued that the police conducted the search with the deliberate intention of obtaining evidence against his client. During the course of the discovery of the case, Attorney Topazio learned that the chemist that analyzed the drugs was the disgraced chemist Annie Dookian, and immediately marked his case for trial. Annie Dookhan is the chemist at the center of the state drug lab scandal and accused of deliberately faking test results on drug samples in criminal cases, and currently is awaiting trial herself. Dookhan was also accused of falsely claiming that she holds a master’s degree in chemistry while testifying as an expert witness on several criminal cases. Despite his push for trial, the Commonwealth answered not ready several times and was granted continuances. Today, pressing his client’s right for a speedy trial, Boston Criminal Attorney Topazio convinced the court to dismiss all charges against his client.
Result: All Charges dismissed for want of prosecution.
April 18, 2012
BMC West Roxbury District Court
Clerk Magistrate Hearing
Application for Criminal Complaint
Distribution of Class D (marijuana) M.G.L. c. 94C § 32C
Possession With Intent to Distribute Class D M.G.L. c. 94C § 30C
Conspiracy to violate the Drug Laws M.G.L. c. 94C § 40
The client, a 31 year old administrative assistant with no prior criminal history, immediately hired Attorney Topazio to represent her after she was stopped by police and searched after purchasing marijuana. Although not arrested, the Client received an application for criminal complaint to appear in court to answer on the charges. Attorney Topazio obtained the police report and learned that members of the Drug Control Unit stopped the Client after observing her engaged in what they believed to be a drug transaction. According to the police report, a $50.00 bag of marijuana was recovered from the Client who admitted to purchasing the marijuana and was released by police. After the Client was released, she called the alleged seller’s cell phone which was answered by police. The police, using a ruse, answered the alleged seller’s cell phone and reported that the Client stated that she was just stopped by the police and that they recovered only one of two bags of marijuana from her. The police still under the ruse, arranged to meet the Client for a second time, where it was reported that the Client was not in possession of the second bag of marijuana as she admitted to distributing it to a third person. Today, Attorney Topazio convinced the clerk magistrate and the police not to issue a criminal complaint against his Client at this time but rather to hold the matter open for one year and if his Client gets into no further trouble to dismiss all charges at the conclusion of the year. Dismissing the application for complaint prior to issuance of the formal criminal complaint also prevents an entry from appearing on his client’s clean criminal record or (CORI).
Result: Complaint not issued and will be dismissed in one year provided client stays out of trouble.
March 07, 2012
BMC West Roxbury Division
Docket # 1206CR0050
Drug Possession With Intent to Distribute
Reckless Operation of Motor Vehicle M.G.L. c. 90 § 24(2)(a)
Marked Lanes violation M.G.L. c. 89 § 4A
Speeding M.G.L. c. 90 § 17
Possession Class D – M.G.L. c. 94C § 34
Possession With Intent to distribute Class D – M.G.L. c. 94C § 32C(a)
The client, a 27 year old musician with a Bachelors of Arts in music, was arrested after coming to Massachusetts form California, hired Attorney Steven J. Topazio to defend him. According to the police report, the Client was arrested after his reckless operation caused Boston Police detectives to effectuate a motor vehicle stop. When the Client could not produce a valid driver’s license, the police arrested the client for reckless operation and decided to tow the client’s motor vehicle instead of allowing his passenger to take it because it was a rental vehicle. When vehicles are towed at the direction of the police, the police are authorized to conduct an inventory search so as to safeguard the Client’s belongings. Instead of allowing the Client’s passenger to take possession of the client’s bag in the rear of the motor vehicle, the police decided to search it on the basis of a so-called inventory search prior to releasing it. Discovered inside the bag were multiple bags of marijuana weighing over a pound. When the Client was taken to the station for booking, he made a video confession that he possessed the marijuana with the intent of giving it to his friends that he owed money too. Attorney Topazio met with the prosecutor and argued that the marijuana was seized without probable cause. Attorney
Topazio pointed out that the Inventory Procedure neither directs nor authorizes the police to open a closed “container” that may be found in the vehicle. The Inventory Procedure provides that it must not be used as “a pretext for an investigative search. Attorney Topazio argued that there must be at least a showing that it was conducted for some legitimate purpose other than a search for evidence. Despite this argument the Client did not want to proceed with a motion to suppress as the expense of flying back and forth from California was a costly one for the client. Today, Attorney Topazio was successful in convincing the Commonwealth to dismiss all charges against his client on the condition that his client receive a CWOF on the sole count of possession with intent to distribute and receive administrative probation and be allowed to return to California unsupervised, and the Court agreed.
Result: All charges dismissed except Possession with intent charge where Client receives a CWOF and thus avoids a conviction on his record and is allowed to return to California unsupervised.
June 15, 2011
Haverhill District Court
1038CR1266; 1038CR2975; 1138CR0995
Distribution Class B, Subsequent Offense c. 94C § 32A(b)
Drug Violation Near School Park c. 94C § 32J
Operation after Suspension, Subsequent c. 90 § 23
Leaving the Scene of Property Damage c. 90 § 24(2)(a)
Reckless Operation c. 90 § 24(2)(a)
Failure to Stop for Police c. 90 § 25
The defendant, who was arrested after being set up by a so called confidential informant who allegedly purchased cocaine from the defendant, hired Attorney Topazio to represent him. Distribution of a Class B substance, subsequent offense is an indictable offence which carries mandatory state prison time. Attorney Topazio prepared pretrial motions to discover the identity of the informant in the case and to suppress evidence. Attorney Topazio argued that the identity of an informant is required when that person acts as a participant in and an eyewitness to an offense. The Commonwealth resisted the efforts of Attorney Topazio to force the disclosure of the informant, but indicated it would do so if ordered by the court. As a compromise, Attorney Topazio was successful in getting all the charges against his client dismissed, on three separate cases, in exchange for a guilty plea to an amended complaint to a first offense of distribution of a class B substance, which sentence was suspended for six (6) months, thus avoiding mandatory jail time for his client, and the Court agreed.
Result: All charges dismissed and defendant avoids mandatory jail time upon a plea to an amended complaint to a first offense in consideration of maintaining the secrecy of the confidential informant.
June 13, 2011
Chelsea District Court
Possession of Marijuana over one ounce, Subsequent Offense M.G.L. c. 94C § 34
The defendant was arrested after being found in possession of 1 ½ ounces of marijuana. As of January 2, 2009, Massachusetts decriminalized (but did not legalize) possession of one ounce or less of marihuana or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the major active ingredient both of marihuana (a Class D substance) and hashish (a Class C substance). G.L. c. 94C, §§ 31, 32L & 34. New G.L. c. 94C, §§ 32L–32N together provide for a $100 civil penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marihuana or THC, using the existing citation procedures found in G.L. c. 40, § 21D. Despite this change in the law, and despite Attorney Topazio’s client possessing 1 ½ ounces of marijuana, Attorney Topazio convinced a court to reduce the charges against his client and continued the case without a finding “CWOF” for one (1) month to an amended complaint of a first offense. A CWOF on a drug offense avoids the collateral consequence of a license suspension by the Registry of Motor Vehicles that a guilty finding would cause.
Result: Subsequent offense dismissed upon plea to amended complaint and case continued without a finding for one month avoiding license suspension.
May 20, 2011
Norfolk Superior Court
Trafficking in Cocaine, M.G. L. c. 94C § 32E(b)(1)
Possession with intent to distribute cocaine M.G. L. c. 94C § 32A(a)
Possession of cocaine M.G. L. c. 94C § 34
Conspiracy to violate the controlled substance laws, M.G.L. c. 94C § 40
The defendant, a disabled plumber, was arrested for trafficking in cocaine after officers discovered two quantities of cocaine in the amount of 19.5 grams, and cash totaling over $1600.00 on his person, hired Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Topazio to represent him. Possessing over 14 grams of cocaine, but less than 28 grams, constitutes the crime of trafficking and exposed the defendant to a minimum mandatory jail sentence of three years. Attorney Topazio obtained the police report and prepared several pretrial motions. Attorney Topazio discovered that the initial stop of his client was after he was observed by police swerving several times in his motor vehicle. When the police entered the license plate number for a check they determined that the vehicle had no inspection sticker, executed a motor vehicle stop, and then observed a crack pipe in plain view resulting in the defendant being ordered out of his vehicle. Attorney Topazio met with the Assistant District Attorney to discuss the case and pointed out that the defendant weighed 87 pounds when arrested and feared that his client would not survive due to his poor health. Attorney Topazio learned that his client had a severe crack problem which started following a gastric bypass medical procedure that was unsuccessful. That prior to his client’s unsuccessful gastric bypass procedure, his client weighed over 400 lbs. Attorney Topazio convinced the District Attorney that considering all the circumstances, including the progress his client made in his recovery, his lack of criminal record, the fact that he tried to kill himself with his drug addiction problem after his wife left him following his unsuccessful gastric bypass surgery, and the fact that his client’s own actions resulted in him punishing himself more severely than whatever the court system could ever possibly do to him; balanced against the Commonwealth’s interest in meeting out punishment and bringing defendants to justice in cases like this, caused the District Attorney to agree to a breakdown of the charges. As a result, Attorney Topazio convinced the District Attorney and the Court to dismiss the trafficking complaint on his client’s agreement to accept an 18 month suspended sentence on the balance of the indictment against his client. A dismissal of the trafficking count insured that his client would not do mandatory jail time.
Result: Trafficking charge dismissed and client avoids mandatory jail time.
April 02, 2010
Chelsea District Court
Possession of Crack Cocaine, Class B MGL c. 94C, § 34
The defendant, who was represented by Attorney Topazio, appeared in the Chelsea District Court for an arraignment for the charge of possessing crack cocaine. The case against the defendant was initially dismissed without prejudice at a Jury date because the Commonwealth did not have the drug certificate of analysis. Attorney Topazio objected to the arraignment because he alleged that the court papers indicated that after the initial dismissal the defendant must receive notice of a Clerk-Magistrate’s hearing pursuant to MGL c. 218, § 35A. Because the defendant had moved, notice to her of the Magistrate’s hearing was returned to the court and Attorney Topazio argued that it was thus ineffective. The Court agreed and the case was dismissed prior to arraignment thus preserving the Defendant’s record.
Result: Case dismissed prior to arraignment.
February 11, 2010
Boston Municipal Court
0901 CR 6943
Possession with intent to distribute Class B, M.G.L. c. 94C, § 32A
The defendant, who was represented by Attorney Topazio, was summonsed to court for possession with intent to distribute a class B substance, when crack cocaine was found in his motor vehicle which was being operated by a second individual who was involved in a drug sale with an undercover officer. The second individual, who was the operator of the defendant’s motor vehicle, was arrested at the scene. When an additional amount of drugs were found in the motor vehicle, the defendant was summonsed to court for the crime charged because he was the registered owner of the motor vehicle. At the defendant’s arraignment, Attorney Topazio objected to his client being arraigned alleging that there was no probable cause to charge the defendant on the facts alleged, arguing that the defendant could not be in constructive possession of the drugs found, and the court agreed and requested the District Attorney to further investigate this matter and the case was continued prior to arraignment. After several court appearances, the District Attorney, after fingerprinting the drugs found in the defendant’s motor vehicle, moved to dismiss the charge against the defendant prior to arraignment, thus preserving the defendant’s criminal record as this criminal entry would not appear on his CORI until the defendant was arraigned.
Result: Case dismissed prior to arraignment and criminal record preserved.
December 01, 2009
Boston Municipal Court
Motion to Reconsider Sentence
Possession Class B, MGL c. 94C § 34
The defendant was charged with Possession of Class B, two counts of ABPO and resisting arrest, when he was found to be in possession of aspirin which the police believed to be cocaine. Despite Attorney Topazio arguing that the substance that was found was aspirin, his client who was in custody on a probation detainer on a different case and bail on this case, decided to tender a plea. The Commonwealth argued that the substance found, on visual inspection, appeared to be cocaine and would not dismiss that charge. Attorney Topazio requested that as a condition of the original plea wanted the court to order the Commonwealth to provide him with a copy of the drug certification and to reconsider the sentence should the drugs test negative, which they subsequently did. Today, after the Commonwealth dismissed the drug charge, on the oral motion to reconsider argued by Attorney Topazio, Attorney Topazio tried to convert his client’s sentence (which was a split sentence with 3 years supervised probation including the requirement of completing the Office of Community Corrections Level III program) into a time served sentence on the remaining counts, but that did not happen. Instead Attorney Topazio persuaded the court to strike the condition that his client complete OCC Level III and further caused the court to switch his client’s probation form supervised to unsupervised. Community Corrections Centers are community based, intensive supervision sites, which deliver bundled sanctions and services, including treatment and education, to high risk offenders via Intermediate Sanction Levels. Intermediate Sanction Level III is an intense level of community-based, criminal justice supervision. Sanctions and services required at this level of supervision represent a daily imposition upon the liberty of the offender. Level III participants are required to report to the community corrections center for one to four hours per day, three to five days per week. Offenders placed at Intermediate Sanction Level III may be monitored via electronic device. Level III also requires random drug and alcohol testing, and attendance at one four hour community service shift per week.
Result: Guilty plea revoked after negative drug certification and probation modified from supervised to unsupervised.
October 26, 2009
Suffolk Superior Court
Trafficking in Cocaine M.G.L. c. 94C § 32E(b)
School Zone Violation M.G.L. c. 94C § 32J
Possessing a Firearm Without an FID Card M.G.L. c. 269 § 10(h)
Possessing a Firearm Without an FID Card M.G.L. c. 269 § 10(h)
The defendant was arrested after Massachusetts State Police executed a search warrant for his home which alleged, among other things, that the police received information from a confidential informant that the defendant was selling Cocaine from his home. During the execution of the warrant, the police found a large sum of money, cocaine, a firearm and ammunition. The defendant, who was facing mandatory jail time, hired Attorney Topazio to defend him. Attorney Topazio filed a Motion to Suppress along with a Memorandum of Law attacking the legality of the search warrant, knowing that if the search was unconstitutional, then the evidence would be excluded and the Commonwealth would have no case. Attorney Topazio argued that where information from a confidential informant is relied upon to supply probable cause to obtain a search warrant, Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights requires that the affidavit apprise the magistrate (who decides whether to issue the search warrant) of sufficient facts and circumstances to establish both: “(1) the basis of the informant’s knowledge, and (2) the credibility of the informant or the reliability of his information. Commonwealth v. O’Day, 440 Mass. 296, 301 (2003); Commonwealth v. Upton, 394 Mass. 363 (1985); Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969); Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108 (1964). In Massachusetts, the first prong, or the “basis of knowledge test,” may be satisfied by evidence that “the informant had personally purchased drugs from the defendant.” Such “direct knowledge” maybe inferred where the level of detail in the informant’s tip regarding the identity of the seller and the drug-selling operation is “consistent with personal observation, not mere recitation of a casual rumor.” The second prong, or the “veracity test,” is commonly satisfied by reference in the affidavit to such factors as: the informant’s successful track record of providing information to the police; the ability of the police to locate and contact the informant despite his/her anonymity in the affidavit; and the informant’s recitation of “precise,” “unique” and “predictive” detail. Today, Attorney Topazio convinced the District Attorney to place the trafficking charge on file, dismiss the school zone charge, and to accept a 2 year suspended sentence on the firearm’s charge, and the Court agreed.
Result: School zone and possession of ammunition charges dismissed; trafficking in cocaine charge placed on file and defendant receives a two year suspended sentence on the possession of a firearm charge, thus avoiding mandatory jail time altogether.
September 16, 2009
Suffolk Superior Court
Trafficking in Cocaine over 200 grams MGL c. 94C § 32E(b)
The defendant, who had flown to the United States from the Dominican Republic, appeared to Customs Officials to have ingested narcotics, was arrested as a drug courier when she arrived at Logan International Airport. Massachusetts State Police were called and learned that the defendant had been on a 24 hour watch list based on federal investigative information regarding the defendant possibly being a drug courier. When the defendant disembarked from her flight she was deferred to a secondary inspection station. During the secondary inspection, customs Enforcement asked the defendant several questions eliciting responses that gave rise to further suspicion of the defendant. The defendant, who appeared lethargic, was presented with a Spanish consent form regarding the use of an X-Ray in which she voluntarily signed, as officials feared that ingested narcotics had entered her bloodstream. The defendant was transferred to a local hospital where it was discovered that the defendant had ingested several items consistent with drug smuggling. Over the course of three days, the defendant passed 53 pellets containing cocaine weighing approximately 530 grams through her alimentary canal. The defendant hired Attorney Topazio to defend her. Trafficking over 200 grams of cocaine carries a punishment of a term of imprisonment in the state prison for not less than fifteen nor more than twenty years. According to statute, no sentence imposed under the provisions of this clause shall be for less than a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of fifteen years and a fine of not less than fifty thousand nor more than five hundred thousand dollars may be imposed but not in lieu of the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment. After months of investigation and negotiations, Attorney Topazio persuaded the District Attorney to reduce the charges against his client upon a change of plea whereby his client would plea to trafficking in cocaine over 14 grams but less than twenty-eight grams and receive a sentence of 5 to 7 years incarcerated with a three year mandatory. Trafficking over Fourteen grams or more but less than twenty-eight grams, carries a punishment of a term of imprisonment in the state prison for not less than three nor more than fifteen years. According to the term of this lesser offense no sentence imposed under the provisions of this clause shall be for less than a minimum term of imprisonment of three years, and a fine of not less than two thousand five hundred nor more than twenty-five thousand dollars may be imposed but not in lieu of the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment. Today, despite the strength of the Commonwealth’s case, Attorney Topazio negotiated a plea bargain with the District Attorney resulting in a triple breakdown of the trafficking offense thus avoiding a fifteen year mandatory jail term.
Result: Defendant receives a sentence of five to seven, three years of that being mandatory, upon a change of plea and thus avoids a mandatory fifteen year jail sentence.
July 17, 2009
South Boston District Court
0903 CR 0264
Possession with intent to Distribute Class D M.G.L. c.94C § 32C(a)
Possession class D (civil infraction) M.G.L. c.94C § 32L
The defendant was arrested after being observed by undercover police leaving a known drug house. After stopping the defendant, he was arrested after officers observed in plain view a bag of marijuana. The defendant was also in possession of a large sum of money and two cell phones. The defendant hired Attorney Topazio to defend him. Attorney Topazio met with the prosecuting attorney and through intense negotiations, convinced the Commonwealth to reduce the possession with intent to distribute class D charge to straight possession of class D, and since the amount of marijuana was not over one (1) ounce, moved to decriminalize the charge pursuant to M.G.L. c.94C § 32L whereupon the court fined the defendant $100.00.
Result: Case decriminalized and Defendant fined civilly $100.00. The defendant avoids trial, potential jail time, a criminal record, and a potential suspension of his driving privileges.
July 15, 2009
Dorchester District Court
0949 CR 0105
Possession with intent to Distribute Class D M.G.L. c.94C § 32C(a)
School Zone Violation M.G.L. c.94C § 32J
The defendant who was on probation, was arrested when his probation officer and Boston Police made a home visit to effectuate a probation warrant and observed in plain view a plastic bag filled with marijuana. The defendant who was placed under arrest for the probation warrant gave written consent to the police to search his bedroom. In addition to the marijuana the officers recovered a digital scale, numerous plastic baggies, 2 cellular phones, a passport and United States Currency. The defendant who was additionally charged with possession with intent to distribute class D in a school zone, and faced a mandatory 2 year sentence on the school zone violation if convicted, was represented by different counsel. After being committed on a probation violation for eleven (11) months, the client fired his attorney after being advised to plea to the possession with intent charge and receive a split sentence with an additional three (3) years probation, and hired Attorney Topazio to represent him. Today, Attorney Topazio convinced the District Attorney to dismiss the school zone charge as well as to reduce the possession with intent charge to straight possession on the condition that his client receive a three (3) month committed sentence concurrent with the sentence he is now serving so as not to interfere with his Result: School zone and possession with intent to distribute charges dismissed and defendant receives a three month committed sentence concurrent with the sentence he is now serving, thus avoiding additional jail time and probation once released from custody.
December 19, 2008
Boston Municipal Court
Possession with Intent to Distribute Class B ch 94C § 32A
Trial de novo
The defendant was convicted on June 20, 1989 out of the Dorchester District Court docket # 8907CR4991 and received a one year committed sentence under the old trial de novo system. Under the trial de novo system a defendant could try his case before a judge without a jury and if he was not satisfied with the results he could appeal his case to the jury session for a jury trial. The trial de novo system allowed a defendant the right to try his case twice or have two bites at the apple. The defendant exercised his de novo right to appeal to the jury session and entered his appeal in the BMC Jury-of –Six session when he appeared in the BMC. The defendant however thereafter defaulted and never had his jury trial. The Commonwealth moved pursuant to M.G.L. ch. 278 § 24 to vacate the defendant’s appeal and to impose the lower court sentence when the defendant appeared in October of 2008 to remove the default. The defendant who was held on bail hired Attorney Topazio. Attorney Topazio filed a Motion to Oppose the Commonwealth’s Request to Impose Lower Court Sentence. Attorney Topazio argued that since the defendant appeared in the jury session then he entered or perfected his appeal as required by statute and that any default thereafter should be treated as a default in the normal course and not as a solid default requiring the lower court sentence to be imposed. Although the trial de novo system ended in the early 1990s, Attorney Topazio successfully utilized the case of Commonwealth v. Coughlin, 364 N.E.2d 210 (1977) which indicated that decisions to declare a defendant in default on his appeal for trial de novo, or to lift such a default, should normally be left to the discretion of the judge on the scene. Despite the Commonwealth’s opposition and demands to impose the lower court sentence, Attorney Topazio persuaded the Court as a compromise to impose the lower court sentence “nunc por tunc” as of June 20, 1989 and deem the defendant’s sentence served, effectively ending the case. The term “nunc pro tunc” is Latin meaning “now for then.” Attorney Topazio was successful in convincing the Court not to incarcerate his client but to deem that sentence served, effectively ending the case in his client’s favor.
Result: Defendant not incarcerated and case closed.