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Under M.G.L. c. 111E, § 10, persons charged with less-serious drug offenses can seek treatment in place of prosecution and punishment.

At arraignment, the court will inform any defendant charged with a drug violation that he is entitled to an examination by an addiction specialist. 

The purpose of the examination is to determine whether the defendant is a “drug dependent person.” 

If the defendant wishes to undergo examination, he must state so in writing within five days of being informed of this option.

If proper, the court will “stay” (i.e., freeze) the criminal proceedings against the defendant for the time needed to complete the examination. 

Any non-drug offenses that the defendant is facing may proceed regardless of the examination.

According to the statute

If the defendant is charged with a drug offense only and if the addiction specialist reports that the defendant is a drug dependent person who would benefit by treatment, the court shall inform the defendant that he may

request assignment to a drug treatment facility, and

advise him of the consequences of the assignment and

that if he is so assigned the court proceedings shall be stayed for the term of such assignment.

Such an assignment may not last more than 18 months or for a period equal to the maximum sentence that the defendant could have received if he were found guilty of every count alleged in the complaint or indictment whichever is shorter.

Whether the defendant is treated as an “inpatient” (confined to the treatment facility) or an “outpatient” (free to leave between treatment) is determined by the facility’s administrator.

If the defendant successfully completes the treatment program, the drug-related charges against him will be dismissed.

If the [treatment facility’s] report states that the defendant successfully completed the treatment program, or if the defendant completes the term of treatment ordered by the court, the court shall dismiss the charges pending against the defendant.

As stated above, such options are available to individuals charged with less serious drug crimes.  They do not typically apply to defendants facing charges that involve selling or manufacturing drugs.