Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
October 21, 1997 97-R-1229
FROM: Sandra Norman-Eady, Senior Attorney
RE: Drug Free Zones
You wanted (1) a summary of the laws, including the penalties, establishing drug free zones; (2) to know if the penalties that these laws carry apply to first time offenders; and (3) to know whether the penalties would apply to teen members of a teen center if the law were made applicable to such places.
Connecticut’s enacted its first drug free zone law in 1987 when the General Assembly established an enhanced penalty for selling, or possessing with the intent to sell, illegal drugs within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school. Subsequently, the legislature increased the proximate distance to schools from 1,000 to 1,500 feet, and made the enhanced penalty applicable to drug selling and possession near other places.
Currently, there are three separate drug free zone laws. The first prohibits illegal drug sales within 1,500 of elementary or secondary schools, public housing projects, or day care centers. The second prohibits the possession of these drugs within the same proximity to schools or licensed child day care centers. The third prohibits the possession of drug paraphernalia within 1,500 feet of elementary and secondary schools. With only one exception, anyone convicted of violating these laws is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence that runs consecutive to the underlying sentencing for illegal drug sales or possession. The exception is for school students possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia near their own school. The mandatory sentences range from one year imprisonment for possessing drug paraphernalia near a school to three years imprisonment for selling drugs near a school, licensed child day care center, or public housing project.
If existing laws were amended to make the enhanced penalties applicable to teen centers, first time offenders and teen center members would be subject to the penalties unless an exception was established. An exception, similar to the one established for students possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia within the schools that they attend, would accomplish this objective.
DRUG FREE ZONE LAWS
Illegal Drug Sales
The law imposes a three-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment on anyone who manufacturers, distributes, sells, prescribes, offers, administers, or transports with intent to sell illegal drugs in, on, or within 1,500 feet of an elementary or secondary school, a public housing project, or a licensed child day care center. A person who transports or possesses with intent to sell illegal drugs within these parameters has the requisite intent needed for imposition of the mandatory penalty. This mandatory penalty is in addition to, and runs consecutively with, any jail term imposed for violating the underlying law related to the sale of illegal drugs (CGS § 21a-278a(b)). The penalties for violating the underlying drug crimes range from an alternative sentence of three years imprisonment for drug-dependent people who sell drugs to life imprisonment for non-drug-dependent people who sell specified amounts of narcotic substances.
Illegal Drug Possession
The law imposes a mandatory two-year prison term on anyone, other than a student enrolled in the school, who possesses illegal drugs in, on, or within 1,500 feet of an elementary or secondary school or licensed child day care center. This mandatory penalty is in addition to, and runs consecutively with, any jail term imposed for violating drug possession laws. The penalties for violating such laws range from up to one year imprisonment, a $1,000 fine, or both for possession of a controlled or hallucinogenic substance other than a narcotic substance or marijuana to up to 25 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both for possession of a narcotic substance (CGS § 21a-279).
The law imposes a mandatory one-year prison term on anyone, other than a student in the school, who uses, delivers, possesses for use or delivery, or manufacturers for delivery drug paraphernalia in, on, or within 1,500 feet of an elementary or secondary school. This mandatory penalty is in addition and runs consecutive to any term of imprisonment imposed for committing these crimes outside of a drug free zone. Currently, possession with intent to use is a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to three months imprisonment, a $500 fine, or both. Possession with intent to deliver is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year imprisonment, a $2,000 fine, or both (CGS § 21a-267).