Criminal justice progressives, activists, and anyone who recognized the basic flaws of over incarceration and the tough-on-crime mentality have largely criticized the new three strikes law, also known as Melissa’s Law, recently signed by Governor Deval Patrick. But, at least one positive thing has come out of the law—a drug law known for unreasonably boosting drug possession penalties has had some of its teeth taken out.
Currently, if you are caught with drugs in a school zone, you can face serious penalties. The school zone drug laws are designed to keep schools and the areas around them free from the drug trade. But usually, the laws simply boost sentences for people in a several-block radius, regardless of their connection to a school.
The new law has taken the area where the school zone law is applicable and shrunk it considerably. While you used to face the increased penalty if you were within 1,000 feet of a school, that area has been decreased to 300 feet.
Also, Melissa’s Law says the school zone law doesn’t apply between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., because who is going to be at the school during these times anyways?
If you are caught in possession of drugs with intent to distribute within a school zone, you face a 2 year mandatory minimum prison sentence. It’s easy to see with this kind of serious penalty, that the law as written would be seriously contributing to the overcrowded prison system.
Also, as written, the current school zone law simply made the area so large it was difficult to not be in a school zone in many areas of the state.
Laws like this one (the original school zone law) were written when it was popular to be ridiculously tough on crime. Interestingly, many lawmakers have begun moving away from such harsh sentences….well, many except for those who voted for the new three-strikes law.
The change to this school zone law is a positive one, though it is buried among the increased penalties and absolutely wrong-way direction of the three strikes legislation.
Regardless, if you are caught in possession with intent to distribute and within a school zone, you face serious penalties. Fortunately, you have options. If your charge can be reduced to possession, you won’t be subject to the school zone enhancement. Contact me today to discuss the details of your case and what can be done to minimize its impact on your life.