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Two From Massachusetts Face School Zone Violation Charges After Arrest By Essex County Drug Task Force For Distributing Heroin

Roberto Saldana of Boston and Rose Marquez-Cartegena of Lawrence, Massachusetts were arrested late last week by members of the Essex County Drug Task Force. The Lawrence Eagle Tribune reports that Saldana was caught Distributing Heroin on six occasions to an undercover officer starting in January of 2012 and ending with his arrest on February 28, 2012. Each time Saldana was within one thousand feet of Central Catholic High School. During Saldana’s arrest the police found a set of keys to a local apartment in Saldana’s possession. Officers then took Saldana back to the home and has him open the apartment door. There officers found Marquez-Cartegena who was also arrested. A Search Warrant was obtained following her arrest. In the apartment authorities located and seized over seventeen thousand dollars cash, Drug Paraphernalia including cutting agents, packaging materials and a scale. Marquez-Cartegena has been charged with Possession With the Intent to Distribute Class A Heroin in a School Zone. The cases are pending in the Lawrence District Court. It is probable that the district attorney will not indict these cases.

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Lawrence Massachusetts Heroin Distribution Lawyer

Massachusetts Drug Violation in a School Zone Defense Attorney

The Massachusetts School Zone Drug Law was established in 1989 under G.L. c. 94C §32J. The law makes it a felony for anyone to Distribute, Possess With the Intent to Distribute or Traffic a controlled substance within one thousand feet of a school zone or within one hundred feet of a public playground or park. There is a minimum mandatory two year sentence for a conviction of this crime. Schools for the purpose of this law includes both public and private schools, pre-schools, secondary schools and vocational schools. It makes no difference if the school is in session or not, day night or vacation. In 2010 the Massachusetts legislature amended the law so that in many instances someone convicted can be paroled after serving one year.

As most Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyers will tell you School Zone Cases are often “broken down” by the district attorney’s office. This means that for many accused, particularly first time drug offenders with no criminal record, the district attorney’s office will agree to dismiss the School Zone Charge in exchange for a plea to a either a Possession With Intent charge or a simple Possession charge. Oftentimes an experienced Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer will be able to negotiate a continuance without a finding to the remaining charges thereby keeping the accused’s criminal record clean.

Here, while Saldana might have some problems it seems like Marquez-Cartegena’s case might have some good defenses. The police had no right to force Saldana to open the apartment door prior to obtaining a search warrant. If anything learned as a result of that unlawful entry gave a basis for the issuance of the search warrant the warrant might be declared invalid and the search struck down as unconstitutional. Also, Marquez-Cartegena’s mere presence at the apartment does not by itself provide sufficient evidence by which a jury might find her with the intent to distribute drugs. Massachusetts case law has been clear on this point. Presence at the scene of a crime with nothing more is insufficient to sustain a conviction for a crime.


Our office has successfully defended Drug Cases in Lawrence Massachusetts and other cities and towns in Massachusetts for over twenty years. We encourage you to visit our case results page for a sampling of the cases we have won over the past decade or so. If you want to discuss your case with us call 617-263-6800 or email us. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and to start your defense.