Topic:
FELONIES; SENTENCING; DRUGS; CRIME;
Location:
DRUGS- LAW AND LEGISLATION;
Scope:
Other States laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


January 13, 1999

 

99-R-0038

PENALTIES FOR DRUG POSSESSION IN CONNECTICUT AND OTHER STATES

 
 

By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Senior Attorney

You asked how Connecticut compares with other states regarding the penalties for illegal drug possession crimes. You were particularly interested in whether other states specify statutorily a minimum quantity of drugs that must be possessed before the state can charge felony possession.


SUMMARY

We compared Connecticut's statutes on felonious drug possession to those of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. For ease of comparison, we looked at the most commonly used drugs: marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Looking only at the lowest classified felony offenses, we found that of these states New York and Vermont are the only two that specify a certain amount of each type of illegal drug a person must possess before he can be charged with felony possession.

The felony drug possession laws in the other states we looked at vary. For example, three states, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island specify drug quantities for felony marijuana possession only, while Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York do not have felony marijuana possession statutes.

PENALTIES FOR DRUG POSSESSION CRIMES

It is illegal for any person to possess or have under his control any non-prescription narcotic, hallucinogenic, or other controlled substance. The penalty for 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 sentence for drug possession ranges 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.

Like Connecticut, a prosecuting authority in Maine or New Hampshire may bring felony possession charges against anyone who has any amount of heroin or cocaine.

In New York and Vermont offenders must have a statutorily specified minimum amount of drugs before they can be charged with felony possession. The maximum allowable felony sentences for the lowest classified felonies in these states range from one to two years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine for possession of 500 milligrams of cocaine to up to five years imprisonment, $250,000, or both for possession of 2.5 grams of cocaine in Vermont.

New Jersey and Rhode Island, like Connecticut, specify the minimum amount of marijuana that a person must have before he can be charged with felony possession. Charges of felony heroin and cocaine possession may be brought in these states regardless of the quantity of drug a person possesses.

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York do not have felony marijuana possession statutes. Massachusetts also does not have a felony cocaine possession statute. In all likelihood, the absence of a felony possession statute does not mean that a prosecuting authority could not charge a person who possesses a large quantity of an illegal drug with a felony. For example, New Hampshire's public defender reports that the state would probably charge possession with intent to sell if a person possessed a large quantity of drugs or had the drug packaged in a certain way. Table 1 shows the lowest classified felony drug possession crimes by state, the statutory citation for each, and the authorized penalty.

Table 1: Felony Drug Possession Crimes

States

Description of Offense

Possession

Connecticut

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

Cite: CGS 21a-279(a)

First offense: up to 7 years, $50,000, or both

Second offense: up to 15 years, $100,000, or both

Subsequent offenses: up to 25 years, $250,000, or both

*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 years, $2,000, or both

Subsequent offenses: up to 10 years, $5,000, or both

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

Maine

Up to 2 grams heroin

Cite: MRSA 17-A-1107

Up to 5 years, $5,000, or both

 

Up to 7 grams Cocaine; 25 squares of LSD; or 1250 micrograms of LSD, amphetamines, or barbiturates

Cite: MRSA 17-A-1107

First Offense: Up to 1 Year, $2,000, or both

Subsequent Offense: Up to 5 years, $5,000, or both

Massachusetts

Heroin

Cite: MGLA 94C-34

First Offense: Up to 2 years, $2,000, or both

Subsequent Offense: Up to 2 years in prison or up to 2 1/2 years in jail and a $5,000 fine

New Hampshire

Controlled drugs in Schedules I, II, III, and IV (includes heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens, and amphetamines)

Cite: NHSA 318-B:26(II)(a)

First Offense: Up to 7 years, $25,000, or both

Subsequent Offense: Up to 15 years, $50,000, or both

New Jersey

Controlled Dangerous Substance (includes heroin and cocaine)

Cite: NJSA 2C:35-10(a)(1)

3 to 5 years and up to a $35,000 fine

 

More than 50 grams of Marijuana

Cite: NJSA 2C:35-10(a)(3)

Up to 18 months and $25,000

Table 1 (Continued)

States

Description of Offense

Possession

New York

1/8 to 1/2 oz. of a narcotic drug (narcotic substances include heroin and cocaine)

Cite: NY Penal Code 220.00

First Offense: 1 to 5 years and $15,000

Subsequent Offense: 3 to 15 years and $15,000

 

500 mg. or more of cocaine

Cite: NY Penal Code 220.06

First Offense: 1 to 2 years and $15,000

Subsequent Offense: 3 to 7 and $15,000

Rhode Island

Under 1 oz. cocaine or heroin or .1 gram LSD

Cite: RIGL 21-28-4.01 (C)(1)(a)

Up to 3 years, $500-$5,000, or both

 

1 to 5 kgs. of a mixture containing a detectable amount of marijuana

Cite: RIGL 21-28-4.01.1

10 to 50 years, and $10,000 to $500,000

Vermont

2.5 grams to 1 oz. cocaine

Cite: VSA 18-4231

First Offense: Up to 5 years, $250,000, or both

Subsequent Offense: Up to 10 years, $500,000, or both

 

200 mg. to 1 gram heroin

Cite: VSA 18-4233

First Offense: Up to 5 years, $100,000, or both

Subsequent Offense: Up to 10 years, $200,000, or both

 

2 or more ounces of marijuana or more than 3 plants

Cite: VSA 18-4230

Up to 3 years, $10,000, or both

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