Are Penalties Stiffer For Selling Drugs in a Drug-Free School Zone?

Being accused of dealing drugs or having enough in your possession for resale is a serious situation, but many states have also implemented additional penalties for drug situations near a school. Each state sets its own rules about this, but in most cases it is a higher grade of felony with longer sentences.

What is a Drug-Free School Zone?

A school zone is the designated geographic area surrounding a school. The boundaries can vary depending on the state’s law.

Typically a school zone includes measurement of feet. For example, in Tennessee, a school zone for this purpose includes anything within 1,000 feet of a school. Tennessee measures from the edge of school property, not the actual building.

In Texas it is a mandatory additional five years to whatever sentence the original charge carries. The five years must run consecutive to the rest of the punishment. (Meaning it cannot be served at the same time as the rest of the sentence but will begin the day the other sentencing is fulfilled).

Massachusetts imposes a mandatory additional two-year sentence to run consecutively to other punishments.

What If You’re Just Nearby?

It depends on the school’s location. Many drug deals take place in parking lots of stores, gas stations and car washes. If from the very corner or edge of that parking lot to the corner or edge of the nearest school is 1,000 feet or less, you could be charged with the enhanced “in a school zone” laws.

Related: You’re probably in a drug-free school zone right now

How is it Worse?

The states that have designed “school zone” laws have heightened or enhanced possible consequences. For example, possession for sale might carry a four-year sentence, but if it is in the school zone, the sentence can be eight years. Each state decides how to enhance the consequences for drug sales or possession for sale in a school zone.

What is a Possible Defense?

An attorney should advise you about your individual situation. In some cases, there are fewer than 1,000 (Or whatever measurement the state puts in the law) feet from the point of the alleged transaction to the school property. Sometimes attacking the stop, search or seizure of evidence gets the original charge dismissed, which then nullifies the “school zone” aspect.

Video: Group pushes to get rid of drug-free school zones

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