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Federal “Crack House” Statute

Congress enacted 21 U.S.C. S856 as part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. This law is commonly known as the "crack house" statute because its primary purpose was to outlaw the operation of houses and buildings where crack and other drugs are made or used. The statute includes two distinct crimes as discussed below. One targets those who are in direct control of property used for drug activity, and the other is aimed at persons who have indirect control, such as landlords.

Maintaining Drug-Involved Premises

It is a crime to maintain drug involved premises under 21 U.S.C. S856. The elements that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a defendant of this offense are as follows:

  1. The defendant permanently or temporarily maintained, leased, opened, used, or rented a place. For the purposes of this law, "maintain" means exercising significant control over the people who are in the place over a period of time or over the activities of the place. In determining how much control a defendant had over a place, factors that may be considered include: the duration of his supervisory position, whether the defendant furnished the place or made repairs to it, and whether he or she provided supplies such as food.
  2. The defendant's purpose in doing so was to manufacture, distribute or use controlled substances. In order to satisfy this element, the government must show that manufacturing, distributing or using drugs was an important reason for maintaining the premises. The defendant's purpose, and not that of a third party, is critical. The government does not have to prove that it was the defendant's only purpose as long as it can prove that it was significant and not incidental.
  3. The defendant acted knowingly. The defendant's knowledge can be inferred from his actions, words, and other circumstances.
Managing Property Used by Others as Drug-Involved Premises

Section 856 also makes it a crime to manage property used by other people as drug-involved premises. To convict a defendant of this offense, the government has to prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant managed or controlled a place as an owner, agent, lessee, occupant, employee, or mortgager. The word "place" as used in this statute has its ordinary meaning. Generally, it only applies to real property, but in one case a court accepted a guilty plea from an individual who made his car available for drug storage.
  2. The defendant made the place available for use, regardless of whether he received compensation or leased, rented or profited from the property in some way.
  3. Other persons used the premises for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, storing, or using a controlled substance. It is important to note that this element involves the purpose of the person or persons to whom the defendant made the premises available and not the purpose of the defendant. The government is required to prove that drug involvement was a significant reason for using the property, but it is not required to prove that it was the only purpose.
  4. The defendant acted knowingly and intentionally. To satisfy this element, it must be proven that drug activity was occurring, the defendant knew about it, and the defendant allowed it to persist. "Intentionally" means deliberately, and "knowingly" means that there was no accident or mistake.

If you have been charged with a violation of 21 U.S.C. S856, you are facing up to 20 years in prison of a fine of up to $500,000, or both.

Boston Federal Drug Crimes Attorney

Stephen Neyman is an aggressive and experienced federal drug crimes lawyer who has been handling drug cases for more than 20 years. He will use every possible approach in his fight to defend you. Given the seriousness of federal drug charges, you should not wait. Call the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. at 617-263-6800 or contact us online today.