Drug Crimes in Connecticut
Nationally and globally, the public’s sentiments on drug possession and use have softened. In fact, at least as it relates to marijuana use, Connecticut is now amongst the many states that have legalized recreational use for persons 21 years of age and older. Unfortunately, although the public’s views on drug possession and use have changed, those within the criminal justice system remain resistant. Police, prosecutors, and judges, the most critical actors in law enforcement, have been slow to recognize the easing of drug use policy and still can apply harsh results to addicts and social users. Hiring an experienced drug crime attorney to protect your rights early in the process could be the difference between jail, probation, or a treatment program.
Drug crimes can be broadly categorized into two types. There are the “simple possession” cases and possession with intent to sell/distribute (PWITS) cases. “Sale” as used in the drug laws actually also means distribtuion and covers anyone who transfers drugs to another person, even a friend or family member. Punishments range from using a diversionary program to life imprisonment! No, that is not a misprint, Connecticut actually has drug sale laws that can result in up to life imprisonment.
“Simple possession” cases are straightforward. If you are arrested for possessing any quantity of a controlled substance, then you could be found guilty of possession. This is a class A misdemeanor, which carries with it up to 364 days (one day less than a year) of possible imprisonment. Similarly, if you are arrested with say, a pipe or some other device used to smoke, ingest, or just generally, use narcotics, then you could be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, which is also a class A misdemeanor.
Importantly, police officers do not need to catch you in the act of using drugs or even find them on your person to charge you with possession. There is a legal principle called constructive possession. Constructive possession lets the police and prosecutors charge you if you were excercizing dominion and control over the drugs even if they were not directly on your person. Common examples of this principle in action are drugs found in a backpack near a firepit, a car console, or in a drawer in a house. The State has to prove more than that the drugs were near you and that you could exercise dominion and control over them. They have to prove you knew of the drug’s character as a drug, its presence, and that you intended to exercise dominion and control. The police and prosecutors often fail to make this distinction and arrest and prosecute everyone near the drugs.
First time offenders for simple possession charges are in luck because Connecticut has something called the Drug Education and Community Service Program (DEP) which is a diversionary program specifically tailored for people charged with these crimes. For more information on Diversionary Programs, check out our service area on them here.
Although there is a diversionary program for possession cases, possession with intent to sell (PWITS) cases are different and usually do not have a program available unless the State agrees to drop the sale charge. Connecticut’s top defense attorneys in the Stamford, Danbury, Bridgeport and Milford courts can sometimes achieve this result if the case is pursued aggressively. Sale charges carry with them far more stringent penalties. In some cases, this includes mandatory minimum jail sentences and as stated above, even life imprisonment.
It is important to note that you do not need to be caught in the act of making a drug sale to be charged with being a drug dealer. Remmeber what PWITS stands for? Possession with Intent to Sell. This means that you were in the possession of drugs (including constructive posession) and that there are sufficient facts to conclude those drugs were not for personal use. As its name suggests, the “intent” of sale is really what matters here. But if that is the case, you may also wonder what types of things make a possession case different possession with intent to sell ones? Well, it always depends on the facts. Facts like the weight of the drug(s) you possessed, the variety of drugs you posessed, how it was packaged (all in one bag or multiple bags), whether the police found a scale, cutting agents, packaging material(s) or records of transactions. Those factors can all influence what charges you may face. Interestingly enough, for those readers out there who have a “personal” cell phone and a “work” cell phone, having more than one phone is a factor that might be used to charge you with PWITS. Lastly, how much cash you were carrying at the time of your arrest, and what denominations of bills it was in, can also influence whether the State pursues a PWITS charge. At the end of the day, this decision is fact-specific but one that a top criminal defense attorney can navigate to protect your rights and interests.
There are also two “versions” of the PWITS charge. Were you a drug dependent peron or a non-drug dependent person? If there is evidence to show you are selling drugs to support an addiction, the law takes that into account. Being drug dependent can lessen the punishment you face by removing mandatory-minimum jail terms. If you are selling drugs for money or profit and do not have a drug problem then you will face charges that carry mandatory minimums because the law looks at that as more predatory in nature. In fact, this is the charge that carries the possibility of life imprisonment. Regardless of which category you fall under, first time offenders charged with PWITS face up to 15 years of imprisonment and 5 years of probation!
Overdose deaths – more than ever before the police are connecting specific drug dealers to people who overdose and are now charging those drug dealers with a homicide. The stakes have never been higher.
This is where Bayer & Black, PC comes in. Our criminal defense team helps clients charged with drug crimes navigate these issues. Whether you have been caught with a dime bag of marijuana or hundreds of bundles of heroin, our team is there to guide you through the process, protect your rights, and defend you in court. If you or someone you love has been charged with a drug crime, give us a call at 203-762-0751. The initial consultation is free.
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Kevin M. Black, Sr. is a former trial level Assistant State’s Attorney (prosecutor) for the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice and the current Liaison to the Judicial District of Danbury for the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association, as well as a Member of the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee overseeing attorney misconduct. Kevin M. Black, Jr. is a former Special Deputy Assistant State’s Attorney (prosecutor) with the Appellate Unit of the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice. Both serve as approved Assigned Counsel for the Connecticut Office of the Chief Public Defender when needed. Our team has tried many cases to verdict and take cases to trial, or pretrial contested hearings, if needed. Our clients become part of our family and when you work with us, you will see and feel the care, compassion, and dedication that we put into defending our family. Don’t settle for anything less than a firm with a proven track record of success and deep experience on both sides of the process.
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Bayer & Black, P.C. is a leading, full service criminal defense firm serving Fairfield County, Hartford County, Litchfield County, Middlesex County, New Haven County, New London County, Tolland County, and Windham County residents for 25+ years. Contact us today to discuss your charges in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Fairfield, Wilton, Ridgefield, Norwalk, Trumbull, Bridgeport, Milford, Weston, Danbury, Newtown, Rowayton, case and receive a free consultation. In addition to Criminal Defense we also serve people threatened by DCF, defending against Restraining Orders, Divorce victims and people injured by the negligence of others or their pets (Bodily Injury).