Drug Crimes and Drug Possession: Understanding the Differences

Posted on: January 2, 2019

The State of Connecticut aggressively prosecutes drug crimes, namely the possession, sale, distribution, and manufacturing of any drug and a controlled substance. As a result, a conviction in the state of Connecticut can result in strict penalties with long-lasting or even permanent consequences.

Illegal possession of a drug or controlled substance

Drug possession laws in Connecticut are serious and the penalties can be harsh. Possession of a controlled substance in any amount, such as hallucinogens or narcotics (the most severe of the offenses), is considered a felony. A first offense can have consequences of up to 7 years in jail and up to a $50,000 fine, and subsequent offenses of possession carry heavier fines and jail sentences. Since the decriminalization of marijuana, however, there is no prison time or criminal record for the possession of one-half ounce or less of marijuana. 

Prosecution of illegal drug possession

Drug possession is either having the drugs physically on one’s body or having control over the drugs. Constructive possession does not require physically holding onto drugs for conviction. Under this doctrine, by knowing where the drugs are or having control over the substance, a person can be liable for constructive possession.

For example, if you are driving a friend to a different location and they put their backpack full of cocaine in the trunk of the car, this likely qualifies as constructive possession and opens you up for arrest as well. To be convicted of drug possession, Connecticut must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Possession (either actual physical possession or control over the drugs)
  • The substance was the controlled substance the police alleged it to be
  • Knowledge of possession of (or access to) the drug and knowledge of its nature

Selling drugs or possession with intent to sell drugs in Connecticut

Connecticut law treats selling drugs and possession of drugs with intent to sell in the same way. If found with a certain amount of drugs, the law can infer that such a large quantity was intended to be sold, as opposed to being possessed personal use.

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

  • You had knowledge of what you were doing
  • You or someone acting at your direction either sold or otherwise delivered a controlled substance to another person in exchange for value and possessed the substance intending to sell them at some point
  • Were drug-dependent

Factors for intent to sell

In Connecticut, the law does not require the judge or jury to look at specific factors to determine whether someone had the intent to sell. However, case law indicates some factors which are commonly used, such as: 

  • 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
  • Any statements made by the defendant
  • The amount, based on the drug, one might possess for personal use

An important note for the intent to sell — generally, possession with intent to sell marijuana is excluded from this charge. However, if the possessor has no drug dependency, and sells large enough quantities, arrests and conviction of marijuana distribution are possible. 

Changes to the law

The state of Connecticut changed its drug sentencing laws in 2015 in response to state-wide challenges of drug addiction and a large prison population incarcerated solely due to drug possession. In response, the Connecticut government enacted policy changes to combat drug addiction and procedures in the criminal justice system.

Some of the effects were decriminalization of possession of marijuana under .5 oz and the possibility of treatment in lieu of prosecution and incarceration. Understanding how this fairly recent law impacts how the courts handle drugs.

Call us at (203) 624-6115 for more information from Knight & Cerritelli or to schedule a consultation in our office in New Haven.

NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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