PARK ZONE DRUG VIOLATION

PARK ZONE DRUG VIOLATION

This blog post will answer the following legal questions on the criminal offense of a park zone drug violation:

  • What does it mean to be charged with a park zone drug violation?
  • Is a park zone drug violation a separate offense from distribution or possession with intent to distribute or sell drug paraphernalia or a controlled substance?
  • Does a park zone drug violation carry a mandatory minimum sentence upon conviction?
  • Is it unconstitutional that a lack of knowledge by the defendant that the defendant’s alleged drug dealing was within 100 feet of a public park or playground is not a defense to the crime?
  • How are the boundaries of a school or public park or playground measured?

What does it mean to be charged with a park zone drug violation?

If a defendant is found guilty of the charge of (ANY):

…the jury will go on to consider whether the Commonwealth has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense was committed within 100 feet of a public park or playground.

Note that it is NOT necessary for the Commonwealth to prove that the defendant knew he or she was within 100 feet from a public park or playground.

Is a park zone drug violation a separate offense from distribution or possession with intent to distribute or sell drug paraphernalia or a controlled substance?

According to Commonwealth v. Taylor  (1992) a park zone drug violation can indeed be charged separately from the underlying drug offense, although under normal circumstances it will be tried together with the underlying charge.

Note that definitions of “park” and “playground” in accordance with the statute establishing a park zone drug violation are to be based on dictionary definitions, case law, and statutes.

Does a park zone drug violation carry a mandatory minimum sentence upon conviction?

YES, there is in fact a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for violations of the park zone drug violation statute committed within 100 feet of a public park or playground.

Is it unconstitutional that a lack of knowledge by the defendant that the defendant’s alleged drug dealing was within 100 feet of a public park or playground is not a defense to the crime?

NO, the statute on park zone drug violations does NOT violate the defendant’s constitutional right to due process in providing that a lack of knowledge that the defendant’s drug dealing was within 100 feet of a public park or playground is not a defense. Lack of knowledge also does not violate double jeopardy principles by requiring a separate mandatory sentence for the underlying drug offense upon conviction.

How are the boundaries of a school or public park or playground measured?

The statute on park zone drug violations does NOT specify any particular method for establishing the boundaries of a school or public park or playground.

In the case of a school, the courts have ruled that under normal circumstances, the measurement should be a straight line from the school’s boundary line to the site of the illegal drug activity. The Commonwealth does not need to establish the exact point of a school boundary if measurement is taken from a point that is reasonably inferable to be located on property used for school purposes.

In accordance with dictionary definitions of the word “site”, the front door of an apartment building should suffice as the starting point of measurement on the school property.

Just as a principle of a school or an arresting officer can testify as to the type of school specified in the school zone statute based on his or her personal knowledge, a principal of a school or a police officer can testify as to the boundaries of the school from his or her personal knowledge. 

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A PARK ZONE DRUG VIOLATION, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.

Source: Instruction 7.870

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