Issue July 2011

July 2011

Drug courts – What are we? What do we do? Why do we do it?

Throughout the country, there are approximately 2,500 drug courts. In Massachusetts, there are 19 drug courts, including one in the U.S. District Court and one in Bristol Juvenile Court. Drug court is the name of a weekly session held in a court before a judge. Probation officers, defense counsel, assistant district attorneys and treatment providers appear with drug-addicted defendants whose cases have been resolved by pleas or guilty findings. Many defendants have been previously found in violation of probation after a surrender hearing.

Don’t pick up after others, or, the danger of spent shell casings

The possession of ammunition is proscribed by G.L. c. 269, § 10 (h), which incorporates "cartridge cases" by reference to G.L. c. 140, § 129C, and "ammunition" has recently been specifically defined in G.L. c. 269, § 10(o), by the Statutes of 2006, chapter 48, section 7. Is a cartridge casing that contains neither primer nor powder -- and is incapable of being fired, or of discharging a shot or a bullet -- ammunition? The question has been answered, for the moment, by the Appeals Court in Commonwealth v. Truong.2

The grass may seem greener

As we continue to search for sensible and considerate drug-enforcement policies, lawyers play a crucial role in previewing the likely practical impact of such changes on the criminal process. An important lesson about the necessity of such a debate can be drawn from the Supreme Judicial Court's recent interpretation of a law created through the direct democracy of a 2008 ballot-referendum which decriminalized, rather than legalized, small quantities of marijuana.