What Happens After You are Convicted of a Drug Crime in Connecticut?

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Getting caught with drugs by the police can be frightening, but it is only the start of the way a drug conviction can change your life. Find out what happens after you are convicted of a drug crime in Connecticut, from sentencing, to probation or parole, and how a drug conviction follows you into everyday life.

Connecticut Drug Convictions Have Serious Sentences

Connecticut takes the possession and use of controlled substances seriously. Depending on the type and amount of drug you are found to possess, you could face mandatory jail time and expensive fines.

Marijuana carries the lowest penalties. Possession of under a half ounce only results in a fine. However, even here, if you possess 4 ounces of marijuana, you risk up to 5 years in jail and a $2000 fine the first time you come before a judge.

Harder drugs are divided into two categories: hallucinogens and narcotics. Hallucinogenic drugs include:

  • LSD or acid
  • Molly or ecstasy
  • PCP or angel dust
  • Mescaline

Possession of Dangerous Hallucinogens carries a maximum first-time penalty of 5 years in jail and up to a $2000 fine. Narcotics include:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Crack cocaine

Possession of Narcotics carries the highest sentencing penalties, with up to 7 years in jail or $50,000 on a first offense. There is also a catch-all charge of possession of controlled substances that has a first-time penalty of up to 1 year in jail and a $1000 fine. Making or selling drugs (especially to children or near schools) carry even higher penalties. These crimes have mandatory minimum prison sentences of 2 to 5 years, and maximums as high as 60 years.

Probation and Parole in Drug Crime Cases

Not every person convicted of a drug crime heads to jail, though. In 2015, Connecticut removed mandatory jail sentences on certain possession charges. That means now more than ever, if you are convicted of a drug crime, you may be facing probation rather than time in jail. Even when you do have a prison sentence, you may be eligible for parole to shorten the time you actually spend behind bars.

Every probation order contains a list of terms -- things you must do or avoid doing while under the supervision of a probation officer. In most drug cases, this will include attending substance abuse counseling and an abstinence program like Narcotics Anonymous. You will have to stay entirely clean and sober throughout your probation. To prove this, you will need to do random drug tests, sometimes several days per week.

All of this supervision and treatment comes at a cost. The expense of drug treatment, group therapy, probation supervision fees, and drug testing can add up to far more than the fines set by the judge. At the same time, reporting to your probation officer and completing drug testing can make it difficult to find and keep a job, and that is on top of the everyday effect of having a drug conviction on your record.

Drug Crime Convictions Carry Consequences in Everyday Life

Most people do not consider the indirect effects a drug conviction will have on their lives. Lawyers call these “collateral consequences.” Let’s look at Arnie’s case to see how these can affect your everyday life.

Arnie was convicted of possession of narcotics because of an opioid addiction after taking Vicodin while recovering from surgery. He was sentenced to a short jail term and 5 years of probation. Before surgery, Arnie worked as a technician in a doctor’s office, but he was replaced while serving his sentence. Now, Arnie’s probation officer is demanding that he get a new full-time job. However, because he has a drug-related felony on his record, Arnie is essentially unemployable in his field. His experience and education won’t help him either, since he may find himself overqualified for many jobs that will hire former inmates.

That same felony may also cause problems when Arnie tries to renew the lease on his apartment. Many landlords will not rent to felons. Because the conviction is evidence of a substance abuse problem, it could affect the custody of his children, as well. It could also affect his ability to enroll in schools or get scholarships for retraining in a different industry.

Addiction and Connecticut Habitual Offense Laws

Addiction and substance abuse can also create more criminal trouble for you long after you are convicted of a drug crime. The body’s psychological and chemical addiction to controlled substances can make abstinence hard and repeat offenses likely. One study found that over 42% of prisoners released from jail after a drug crime conviction were arrested again within the next year. By 9 years later, nearly 84% had been arrested again.

When that happens, the sentence for that second or subsequent drug offense is even harsher than the first. In most cases, a “habitual offense” charge will double the maximum jail sentence and fine for the first offense of the same charge. At its worst, a third Possession of Narcotics conviction carries a penalty of 25 years in jail and up to $250,000 in fines. If substance abuse treatment and therapy are not enough to help you beat addiction, you could end up facing another round of criminal charges and even longer behind bars.

That’s why it is so important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney on your very first drug charge. By considering all your options, including technical defenses and alternative programs for non-violent offenders, a drug lawyer can help you keep from being convicted of a drug crime and avoid the cascade of collateral consequences that go with it.

Based in Fairfield, Connecticut, The Lebedevitch Law Firm works closely with people facing first-time and habitual drug charges in Fairfield and New Haven counties. We will help you defend your criminal record and keep you from facing a lifetime of consequences. Contact us for a free phone or video conference consultation.