SCHOOL ZONE STATUTE DOES NOT APPLY RETROACTIVELY TO CONVICTIONS

In  Commonwealth v. Thompson, the SJC affirmed the defendant’s convictions of distributing cocaine and doing so in a school zone.  It ruled that the 2012 amendment to the school zone statute, which reduced the radius of the school zone from 1,000 feet to 300 feet, was not retroactive to this case. The case arose from an incident in 2008, during which the defendant sold cocaine at a location that was approximately 500 feet from school property. The Court noted that “in Commonwealth v. Bradley, it had ruled that the … amendment to the school zone statute … applied retroactively to ‘all cases alleging a school zone violation for which a guilty plea had not been accepted or conviction entered as of’ the effective date of the amendment.” The Court rejected the defendant’s attempt in the present appeal to procure extension of Bradley’s holding to the circumstances here, “where the defendant had been tried and convicted before the effective date, but where his direct appeal was pending on that date.” The Court explained that, in Bradley, retroactive application was deemed appropriate because it was in keeping with the purpose of the amendment, which “‘was enacted to diminish the unfair disparate impact of the prior statute on urban and minority residents.’ Thus, failing to apply the amendment to charges that were pending in the trial court on the effective date would have wrongly prolonged that unfair disparate impact.” However, stated the Court, “the situation was different in this case, where the charges were already resolved with a trial and conviction that occurred before the effective date…. Therefore, concluded the Court, the Legislature did not intend to grant new trials to defendants who already had been convicted” as of the effective date.

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