Connecticut Drug and Sentencing Laws

(203) 518-8010

CONNECTICUT DRUG CRIMES

The State of Connecticut aggressively prosecutes possession, sale, distribution, or manufacturing of any controlled substance and a drug conviction can carry strict penalties and can have long-lasting consequences.

I.     ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF A DRUGS OR CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE [C.G.S. § 21a-279]

The laws prohibiting drug possession in Connecticut CT used to have different punishment based on the type of drugs you were found to possess. However, Connecticut drug possession laws no longer make any distinction among drugs, and whether you possess hallucinogenic drugs[1], narcotics[2], or any other controlled substance, all are treated as a Class A misdemeanor.

Moreover, it is no longer a crime--but rather is an infraction--to possess marijuana under a half ounce (0.5 oz.).

Connecticut law defines a ‘controlled substance' as drug or substance proscribed in schedules I to V. Visit the Connecticut controlled substance scheduling regulations here to see what constitutes a controlled substance.

Prosecution of Illegal Drug Possession

Drug possession is defined as either (a) having the drugs physically on your person, or (b) having control over the drugs. In order for one to be convicted of drug possession, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:

  • (1) Possession—either actual physical possession or control;
  • (2) The thing you possessed was in fact, chemically, the controlled substance alleged to be; AND
  • (3) Knew you were in possession of (or had access to) the drug and knew of its nature.

Constructive Possession

You need not physically have drugs on your person in order to be convicted of illegal possession under the doctrine of constructive possession. Under this doctrine, it is enough if one knows where the drugs are and has control over substance. So if you're hanging out with friends who you know have drugs in their apartment or their car, and you are physically able to access those drugs, you can be arrested for illegal possession as well.

The court or a jury may consider control over the premises as a factor in determining whether one has constructive possession of drugs. However, mere control over the premises is not enough for possession of drugs found on the premises. There needs to be control over the drugs as well.

School Proximity Enhancement

If you are found to be within 1500 feet of (a) a school and are not a student, or (b) day car enter, a sentencing enhancement might apply, and you may face additional penalties.

Multiple offenses

If you are found in possession of two or more narcotic substances at the same time, the law does not treat each drug as a separate offense under CGS § 21a-279(a).[3]

Persistent Offenders under C.G.S. § 53a-40

A persistent offender is someone who has multiple drug convictions under CGS § 21a-279. Connecticut essentially has a three-strike system here, meaning that if you're convicted of third drug possession charge, you will be found a persistent offender and a sentencing enhancement could apply.

Defenses to Drug Possession in Connecticut

  • You did not know that you were in possession or physical access to drugs.
  • You had a special privilege or license to possess the controlled substance.
  • You were in possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana and thus only committed an infraction.
  • Convince the court and the state that you are drug dependent and need treatment instead of criminal penalties.

Penalties for Connecticut Drug Possession

Generally, if convicted of illegal drug possession, you will face:

  • Up to 1 year in jail;
  • Fine up to $2,000; and/or
  • Probation

In some cases, the penalties will increase depending on the amount of drugs you possess, which could elevate the crime to possession with intent to sell, or if other aggravating circumstances apply.

II.     SELLING DRUGS OR POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO SELL DRUGS IN CONNECTICUT (C.G.S. § 21a-277)

Connecticut law treats selling drugs and possession of drugs with intent to sell the same. If you possess a certain amount of drugs, the law can infer that you intended to in fact sell the drugs as opposed to merely for personal use.[4]

To be convicted of this crime, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • (1) You had knowledge of what you were doing; AND
  • (2) You or someone acting at your direction either:
    • (a) Either sold or otherwise delivered a controlled substance to another person in exchange for something of value or even as a gift; OR
    • (b) Possessed a controlled substance and specifically intended to sell them at some point in time based on the facts and circumstances; AND
  • (3) Were drug dependent

Intent to Sell

Some factors a jury may consider in determining whether or not the accused had intent to sell are the following:

  • Location in which the defendant is present and whether or not it is widely known to be an area;
  • Packaging materials and logos on them;
  • Possession of large amounts of cash;
  • Possession of weapons; and/or
  • Any statements made by the defendant
  • The amount, based on the drug, one might possess for personal use.

Marijuana Excluded

Generally, under C.G.S § 21a-277, possession with intent to sell marijuana is excluded from this charge. However, under C.G.S § 21a-278 where one does not have a drug dependency, and sells large enough quantities, you can be arrested and convicted of marijuana distribution.

Accomplice Liability - Assisting Another to Sell Drugs

One who encourages, aids and abets, or counsels another in selling drugs can be charged as an accomplice, which is the same as being charged with the crime itself. If you are close to or live with someone who sells drugs you should exercise extreme caution, as you could be a target of police investigation as well.

III.     SALE OR POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO SELL BY NON-DRUG-DEPENDENT PERSON (C.G.S. § 21a-278)

Connecticut courts treat those who sell drugs who are purely financially motivated differently than those selling drugs merely to support their own drug habit, and impose harsher penalties for the former.

In order to be convicted of this crime, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:

  • (1) Knowingly sold or possessed with the intent to sell drugs; AND
  • (2) That you possessed a certain quantity of drugs the presumes non-dependence

Presumption of Non-Dependence

There may be a presumption that you are not drug dependent based on the type of drugs and quantity of drugs you are caught dealing.

  • If sale or possession of heroin or methadone with intent to sell is alleged, non-dependence can be inferred where the aggregate weight is one ounce (1 oz.) or more.
  • If sale or possession of cocaine with intent to sell is alleged, non-dependence can be inferred where the aggregate weight is one half-ounce (1/2 oz.) or more.
  • If sale or possession of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) with intent to sell is alleged, non-dependence can be inferred where the aggregate weight is five milligrams (5 mg) or more.
  • If sale or possession of marijuana with intent to sell is alleged, non-dependence can be inferred where the aggregate weight is one kilogram (1 kg) or 2.2 pounds or more.

Aggregate Weight

In determining the “aggregate weight," a jury will be instructed to consider of the entire substance, which is not only the active ingredient, i.e. the illicit drug itself, but also any other agents the drugs are combined or “cut with.” In other word, in determining the weight of the drug, the purity of the drug is irrelevant.

Despite the legal presumption otherwise based on the quantity of drugs possessed, the defense can still prove that more likely than not, you were dependent on drugs at the time of the offense.[5]

Defenses to Drug Sales in Connecticut

  • Entrapment: Police induce you to unknowingly delivering drugs where (1) the plan originated with the government, and (2) you were not predisposed to selling the drugs anyways.
  • Lack of knowledge: You did not even know that you possessed the drugs. (For example, someone places the drugs on your person and uses you as an unknowing mule to transport them).
  • Drug Dependence: You were addicted to drugs and were selling merely to support your drug habit and that you and society would benefit from treatment.

Penalties for Selling Drugs in Connecticut

Type/Quantity of Drugs

Dependent

Non-Dependent

Sale of any drug that is NOT a narcotic or hallucinogen (does NOT include marijuana)

1st Offense: Up to 7 years in prison and/or fine up to $25,000 (no mandatory minimum)

 
 

2nd or > Offense: Up to 15 years in prison and/or fine up to $100,000 (no mandatory minimum)

 

Sale of any other narcotic or hallucinogen (does NOT include marijuana)

1st Offense: Up to 15 years in prison; and fine up to $50,000 (no mandatory minimum)

 
 

2nd Offense: Up to 30 years in prison; and fine up to $100,000 (no mandatory minimum)

 
 

3rd or > Offense: Up to 30 years in prison; and fine up to $250,000 (no mandatory minimum)

 

Sale of any amount of any narcotic, hallucinogen, OR 1kg or > of marijuana

 

1st Offense: 5 to 20 years in prison (mandatory minimum of 5 years)

Sale of any amount of any narcotic, hallucinogen, OR 1kg or > of marijuana

 

2nd or > Offense: 10 to 25 years in prison (mandatory minimum of 10 years)

·       Sale of 1 oz. or > of heroin or methadone;

·       Sale of 0.5 oz. or > of cocaine or crack;

·       Sale of 5mg or > of LSD

 

1st or >Offense: 5 years up to life in prison (mandatory minimum of 5-20 years in prison non-suspended)

No Mandatory Minimum for Addicts Who Sell Drugs

Often the defense strategy when it comes to selling drugs or possession with intent to sell is plead guilty, and convince the court that you are able to be rehabilitated without prison time. The court has wide discretion where your defense attorney can show you are drug-dependent, and may suspend your sentence in order to seek treatment.

There are also pre-trial diversion programs that may be available to you that will allow you to get a medical evaluation, seek treatment for your addiction, make a motion to suspend your prosecution, and if successful in your program and respond well to treatment, the court or the state may dismiss the charges.

Subsequent Offenders Enhancement

If you've been convicted of selling drugs or possession with intent to sell in the past, there are increased penalties for subsequent offenses.

Other Related Crimes:

  • Illegal Distribution of a Controlled Substance Near a School, Public Housing, or Day Care Center [C.G.S. § 21a-278a(b)]
  • Illegal Distribution of a Controlled Substance to a Minor [C.G.S. § 21a-278a(a)]

[1] For example, LSD (or acid), ecstasy/molly/MMDA, PCP (or angel dust), DMT, or mescaline

[2] Narcotics include for example heroine, cocaine, or crack

[3] See State v. Rawls, 198 Conn. 111 (1985)

[4] Connecticut makes important distinctions between illegal drug sales based on whether or not the accused has a physical dependency on drugs. This reflects the recent legislative policy trends to treat drug dependency from a rehabilitative approach versus a punitive or general deterrent approach.

[5] State v. Jenkins, 41 Conn. App. 604, 609 (1996); see also State v. Hart, 221 Conn. 595, 607-11 (1992).

Free Consultation

If you've been arrested for DUI in New Haven or Fairfield County or anywhere in Connecticut our experienced DUI defense team will help you to get back on the right path. We have years of experience defending DUIs, misdemeanor, and felony charges. We will help you to recover your freedom and reclaim your life. Our passion is to help you free of any judgment.

Experienced Accident and Injury Lawyers

Our passionate accident and injury lawyers will strive to help you achieve the best result possible for your case. If you or someone you know who has been injured in a car or motorcycle accident, suffered an injury at work on the job, or has serious or permanent injuries or disability due to someone else's careless actions or negligence in California or Connecticut, contact us immediately. We will not stop until you are satisfied with our service and are confident that we have provided you with excellent legal representation.

Menu