FAMM Weighs In on Massachusetts School Zone Appeal

Post Date: September 23, 2013

School Zone SignAs you know, the 2012 sentencing reforms reduced the size of school zones from 1,000 feet to 300 feet.  The Legislature directed that the 2012 reforms should take effect immediately, including the new, smaller school zones.  FAMM believes that the smaller zones apply to everyone sentenced after they were redrawn, no matter when their offense occurred.  Today, FAMM said so in a “friend of the court” brief filed with Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in the case of Commonwealth v. Pagan. 

The SJC will decide which zones apply to defendants who were charged with a school zone offense before the law took effect but were (or will be) sentenced after that date.  A number of FAMM members are serving mandatory minimum sentences for school zone offenses, and some will be directly affected by this case.  We hope that our brief will help the SJC make the right decision.  

Read FAMM’s brief.  In our brief, we argued that the new 300-foot zones should apply to school zone cases that were pending as of August 2, 2012, even if the offense took place when the old law was in effect.  Our brief details research that shows the unfair way that the school zone law punishes people of color, urban residents and low-income communities.  In light of the extreme disparities that the 2012 reforms were designed to lessen, it’s our position that the Legislature wanted those disparities to end on the day the law was signed.    

Attend the arguments.  The Pagan case will be argued on Monday, October 7, along with another school zone case, Commonwealth v.  Bradley.  The public is welcome to attend the SJC arguments, which start at 9 a.m.  There are six other cases being heard that morning about a variety of issues.  Click here for directions to the John Adams Courthouse in downtown Boston.  

Only the defense attorneys and prosecutors from the Middlesex and Berkshire District Attorneys’ offices will be speaking before the court.  The SJC will not decide anything on October 7 but instead will issue a written decision in the months ahead.    

Please let us know if you have any questions.


Barbara J. Dougan
Massachusetts Project Director
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)

Contact FAMM’s Massachusetts Project:

By phone: (617) 543-0878
By email: bdougan@famm.org
By mail: P.O. Box 54, Arlington, MA 02476