Appeals Court (March 3, 2008)

When a defendant is charged with a school zone violation, the prosecutor need only prove that a school is "accredited" if it is a private preschool or headstart program.

The defendant was convicted by a District Court Judge of distributing a class B substance in a school zone. The "school" in question was a public preschool. The defendant appealed the school zone conviction arguing that for the statute, G.L. c. 94C, § 32J, to operate with respect to any preschool there must be evidence that the preschool is accredited, and in this case the evidence of accreditation was insufficient to support a conviction. The appeals court agreed that, based on the witnesses' testimony, there was not enough evidence to support a finding that the school was accredited; however, the school zone statute does not require such proof.

The relevant language reads, "in or on, or within one thousand feet of the real property comprising a public or private accredited preschool, accredited headstart facility, elementary, vocational, or secondary school."

The term "accredited" in the language of the statute acts as a modifier only to private preschools or headstart programs.