Topic:
CRIME; CRIMINALS; SENTENCING; DRUGS;
Location:
DRUGS;

OLR Research Report


Connecticut General Assembly



OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH

10/14/2003 98-R-1003

FROM: Sandra Norman-Eady, Senior Attorney

RE: Penalties for Illegal Drug Sale and Possession Crimes

You asked how the penalties have increased for the sale and possession of illegal drugs over the past few years.

SUMMARY

Within the past five years, the most significant change to the drug laws has been to impose an enhanced or stiffer penalty for selling or possessing drugs within 1,500 feet of a licensed day care center. This stiffer penalty was already in place for selling or possessing drugs within the same distance of a school or housing project.

Legislation is introduced almost every session affecting drug sale and possession crimes. For example, this year legislation was introduced to make drug dealers liable for damages to those they harm. Another bill sought to impose a mandatory minimum prison sentence on anyone convicted of selling or possessing illegal drugs at or near a youth or teen center. Neither of these bills became law.

During the past year, we have had the occasion to compare Connecticut's statutes on illegal drug possession to the Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont statutes. We found that the statutorily authorized penalties for possession are more severe in Connecticut than in neighboring states. New York's penalties are the most lenient.

CONNECTICUT DRUG POSSESSION CRIMES

It is illegal for any person to possess or have under his control any narcotic, hallucinogenic, or other controlled substance. The penalty for personal drug possession in Connecticut depends on a number of different factors, including the amount and type of drug, where the criminal act takes place, the offender's age, and whether the criminal act was a first or repeat offense. The statutorily authorized sentences for drug possession range from up to one year imprisonment, a $1,000 fine, or both for a first offense of possession of less than four ounces of marijuana to up to 25 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both for three or more convictions for possession of narcotics. Penalties for all drug possession crimes are enhanced when they occur within 1,500 feet of a school or licensed day care center. Table 1 shows the drug possession crimes, the Connecticut General Statutes citation for each offense, and the authorized penalty.

Table 1: Drug Possession Crimes

Offense Descriptions

Possession

Narcotics (i.e., heroin, cocaine, and crack)

Cite: CGS 21a-279(a)

First offense: up to 7-year jail term, up to a $50,000 fine

Second offense: up to 15-year jail term, up to a $100,000 fine

Subsequent offenses: up to 25-year jail term, up to a $250,000 fine

*Alternative sentence: up to 3-year indeterminate jail term with conditional release by correction commissioner

Dangerous hallucinogens or at least 4 oz. of marijuana

Cite: CGS 21a-279(b)

First offense: up to 5-year jail term, up to a $2,000 fine

Subsequent offenses: up to 10-year jail term, up to a $5,000 fine

*Alternative sentence: up to 3-year indeterminate jail term with conditional release by correction commissioner

Any other illegal drug or less than 4oz. of marijuana

Cite: CGS 21a-279(c)

First offense: up to 1-year jail term, up to a $1,000 fine

Subsequent offenses: up to 5-year jail term, up to a $3,000 fine

Possession of illegal drugs within 1,500 feet of an elementary or secondary school or a licensed day care center

Cite: CGS 21a-279(d)

Mandatory 2-year jail sentence running consecutively to the jail term imposed for violating other drug possession laws.

CONNECTICUT DRUG SALE CRIMES

It is illegal for anyone to manufacture, distribute, sell, prescribe, dispense, compound, transport with intent to sell or dispense, possess with intent to sell or dispense, offer, give, or administer to another any controlled substance. The penalty for violating the law ranges from up to seven years for a first time offense of selling any drug, other than a narcotic or hallucinogen, to life imprisonment for causing another person's death by selling heroin, cocaine, or methadone. Table 2 shows the drug sale crimes, the Connecticut General Statutes citation for each offense, and the authorized penalty.

Table 2: Drug Sale Crimes

Offense Descriptions

Authorized Penalties

Causing the death of a user by selling heroin, cocaine, or methadone

Cite: CGS 53a-54b(6)

Life imprisonment without possibility of early release or a death sentence if the jury fines that aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors

Sale by a nonaddicted person of at least 1 oz. of heroin, cocaine, or methadone; 5 mg. of LSD; or .5 g. of crack

Cite: CGS 21a-278(a)

Mandatory minimum 5 to 20 years imprisonment with a possible maximum term of life imprisonment

Sale by a nonaddict of at least 1 kg. of marijuana or any amount of narcotics, amphetamines, or other hallucinogens

Cite: CGS 21a-278(b)

Minimum 5-year jail term with a possible maximum term of up to 20 years

Subsequent Offenses: mandatory minimum 10-year jail term up to a 25-year maximum term

Sale by nonaddict adult of drugs to a minor at least two years younger

Cite: CGS 21a-278a(a)

Mandatory 2-year jail term running consecutively to jail term imposed for violating the underlying crime

Sale of illegal drugs within 1,500 feet of an elementary or secondary school, a licensed day care center, or a public housing project

Cite: CGS 21a-278a(b)

Mandatory 3-year jail term running consecutively to any jail term imposed for violating the underlying drug sale crime

Hiring a minor to sell illegal drugs in violation of the laws prohibiting illegal drug sales

Cite: CGS 21a-278a(c)

Mandatory 3-year jail term running consecutively to the underlying drug sale crime

Sale of any narcotics or hallucinogens other than marijuana

Cite: CGS 21a-277(a)

First offense: up to 15 years imprisonment, a $50,000 fine, or both

Second offense: up to 30 years imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, or both

Subsequent offenses: up to 30 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both

Alternative sentence: up to a 3 year indeterminate sentence with conditional release

Sale of any other illegal drug

Cite: CGS 21a-277(b)

First offense: up to 7 years imprisonment, a $25,000 fine, or both

Subsequent offenses: up to 15 years imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, or both

Alternative sentence: up to a 3 year indeterminate sentence with conditional release

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