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Posted on in Drug Charges

CT defense lawyerConnecticut law on drug possession and trafficking establishes crimes that are committed when a person holds or sells illegal drugs (or legal drugs obtained illegally). However, there is another type of drug-related crime that is commonly charged, referred to as possession of drug paraphernalia. If you have been charged with this, either on its own or on top of a drug possession charge, it is crucial to understand that it can sometimes be treated as a relatively minor infraction, but in some cases, can lead to additional fines and even jail time.

Hard to Define

Possession of drug paraphernalia is a fairly common offense, with Connecticut law on the subject following the same patterns as are seen in other jurisdictions. The relevant statute holds that it is illegal to either use drug paraphernalia, or to possess it with the intent to use. The definition of drug paraphernalia, however, is extremely wide, covering seemingly every possible manner in which an item can be used to use, sell, or handle drugs - meaning that if you are arrested for drug possession, you may very well face a paraphernalia charge if anything even remotely related to drugs can be found in the near area or in your possession.

In order to establish your guilt in this particular crime, State’s Attorneys must prove that you had actual or constructive possession (essentially, either possession or control over the item) and that you knew what the item was and/or knew its purpose. So, for example, if you are asked to hold onto a water pipe for a friend, but do not know what it is, or know what it is used for, you cannot be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia because you had no intent to do so.

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CT defense lawyerThere are several legitimate medical uses for drugs that are otherwise considered dangerous and illegal to possess - for example, opioids and other painkillers. However, they do not always stay in the right hands, or if they do, sometimes they can be used to excess. If you have been charged with illegal use of prescription drugs in Connecticut, having an experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference in your case.

Drug Crimes Can Carry Serious Sentences

Prescription drugs are covered under Connecticut’s possession and trafficking statutes, and even for a first offense, the consequences can be strict. In addition, Connecticut has specific regulations prohibiting subsidiary offenses like doctor shopping (going to multiple doctors for controlled substances without disclosing that fact to any of the doctors) or obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, which carry their own sentences in addition to any possession charge that you may face.

Most crimes related to drugs are considered felonies in Connecticut, simply because of the potential harm to the individual and society. This means that even a first offense can carry prison time, from one year to 25 in extreme cases. In addition, possession need not always be physical; constructive possession (when you, for all intents and purposes, had control over the drugs) is often enough, and many defendants are unaware of possibilities like these.

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CT defense lawyerPossessing any kind of illegal drugs in Connecticut (with the exception of very small amounts of marijuana) is a serious offense in Connecticut, and if you are caught, you will face consequences that can be long-lasting, especially for juveniles. Do not try to navigate the court process alone; enlist a knowledgeable attorney who has experience in these cases to make sure that your rights are protected and the outcome of your case is appropriate.

Sentences Are Stiff

Connecticut’s drug laws are specific and uncompromising, and possession is seen as a significant offense, despite the decriminalization of possessing less than ½ an ounce of marijuana. Possessing more than ½ an ounce is generally a misdemeanor while possessing some harder drugs like narcotics can be a felony charge, and possessing hallucinogens like LSD or MDMA is punishable by up to five years in prison for a first offense. Because of the perceived risk to society, drug possession is a crime that prosecutors will often try to pursue aggressively.

That said, not every case of possession is an automatic black mark on a person’s record. The law does recognize certain exceptions to the law governing possession - it states, for example, that where possible, people who “breathe, inhale, sniff or drink” controlled substances are to be afforded medical treatment rather than criminal penalties. Also, no one who is seeking medical help for an overdose will be charged with drug crimes solely on the basis of that status - even though one might infer that they had to have possessed significant amounts of a drug in order to overdose. The law puts the person’s well-being first.

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<pCT defense lawyerWhile Connecticut is known for having decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana at a relatively early point in time, many tend to forget that the state’s law on possession of harder drugs is just as severe as that of any other. Drugs like cocaine and heroin are in a different medical classification group than marijuana, and the effect of possession and use on the public good is far worse. If you have been caught with harder drugs than marijuana, you definitely need to contact an experienced attorney to help you.

Possession and Intent to Distribute

Connecticut law recognizes two types of drug possession crimes - simple possession, and possession with intent to distribute. While intent to distribute is a crime carrying a long jail term, simple possession of hard drugs is still seen as a serious offense even if there is no intent to sell visible. This is because hard drugs have been documented to cause not acute harm not only to users, but to those around them as well. This idea of wanting to protect society, in general, is referred to as public policy, and drug offenses are often referred to as public policy crimes.

State law bars possession of any “narcotic, hallucinogenic or other controlled substance,” unless the person can produce a valid prescription for the substance from a doctor. If someone is caught with these drugs, the penalties can be quite severe because of the public policy considerations - for example, possession of heroin, even as a first offense, can lead to a jail term of up to seven years, plus a $50,000 fine. This is true even of simple possession - the rationale is that the state’s interests in ensuring the health and well-being of its citizens (as much as possible) warrants severe consequences for anyone bringing drugs into the community.

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CT defense lawyerIn 2011, Connecticut’s then-governor signed legislation decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, reducing the sentence from incarceration to a fine, between $150-$500 per offense. However, too many people hear this and assume that this means no consequences for possession at all. In reality, being charged with possession of any drug is still a serious offense that requires an experienced legal professional to manage.

Infractions vs. Crimes

Decriminalized offenses are still considered infractions, which means that consequences still attach. While these offenses do not carry a penalty of incarceration, they do still carry fines, and can still cause serious problems in the future, since a possession conviction as an adult will generally remain on a person’s criminal record. Also, after your second conviction for this infraction, you can be ordered into a drug treatment program by the court.

It may seem a good idea to simply pay a ticket for possession of marijuana, but in reality, it causes far more trouble than it alleviates in the short-term. Admitting your guilt means that the offense remains on your record, where it can be visible to future employers, loan officers, and others in positions of authority. In most situations, it is best to try and fight the charge, so you can potentially duck that blemish on your record.

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