According to a recent opinion issued by the Michigan Court of Appeals, a defendant cannot receive enhanced sentencing for delivering drugs in a school zone unless the prosecution establishes that he or she actually intended to deliver drugs within the school zone itself. If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug crime, contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal attorney in Berrien County at 269.982.1100 or visit http://www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.
Enhanced Penalties for Delivering Drugs in a School Zone
Under Michigan law, criminals who deliver drugs within 1,000 feet of school property are subject to significantly harsher sentences. Specifically, such a conviction will result in a minimum sentence of two years in prison, and the judge has discretion to sentence the offender to a maximum sentence of up to three times longer than the normal maximum.
Phrasing of the Statute Requires Intent
However, the phrasing of the Michigan school zone statute is unclear as to what exactly must be shown: Does the prosecution have to establish that a defendant actually intends to deliver drugs within the school zone or is the mere fact that a defendant possesses drugs and drug dealing paraphernalia within the zone sufficient for these penalties? This ambiguity was at issue in People v. English, a recent Michigan Court of Appeals case. In that case, the police raided the defendant’s home and discovered a significant amount of drugs and drug dealing paraphernalia. Because the defendant’s home was located within 1,000 feet of a school, the prosecution sought enhanced penalties for delivering drugs within a school zone. However, the defendant argued the language of the school zone statute required the prosecution to demonstrate that he actually intended to deliver the seized drugs within the school zone, a burden that the prosecution clearly had not met.
In its holding, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that the defendant’s interpretation made the most grammatical sense given the phrasing of the statute. Although the prosecution argued that such an interpretation was not intended by the Michigan legislature, the Michigan Court of Appeals found no such violation. And because the prosecution failed to establish the defendant’s intent to deliver the drugs within a school zone, a conviction could not be sustained.
Having an attorney who understands recent legal developments and their implications for your case can be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction. If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug crime, contacted Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading criminal attorney in Berrien County at 269.982.1100 or visit http://www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.