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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

8.1 Introduction to Drug Offenses

Revised to May 23, 2013

Drug Transactions
The statutes in Title 21, Chapter 420b, Dependency-Producing Drugs, define the entire regulatory scheme for controlled substances, encompassing a broad range of prohibited acts from illegal street sales to improper dispensing of such substances by doctors or pharmacists.  The statutes criminalizing the distribution of controlled substances ( 21a-277, 21a-278a, and 21a-278a) include numerous verbs that describe the variety of transactions that may be punishable.  They are:

  • manufactures

  • distributes

  • sells

  • prescribes

  • dispenses

  • compounds

  • transports with the intent to sell or dispense

  • possesses with the intent to sell or dispense

  • offers

  • gives

  • administers to another person

Note that 21a-278a incorporates 21a-277 and 21a-278 but specifies a limited subset of applicable transactions.

Of these, "administer," "prescribe," and "dispense" are defined in 21a-240 in a very specialized manner that applies to practitioners, which includes doctors, pharmacists, scientific investigators, etc.  See 21a-240 (43).  In State v. Jackson, 13 Conn. App. 288, 297 (1988), the information charged the defendant with "possession with the intent to sell or dispense."  As the statutory definition of "dispense" makes reference to practitioners, which was not applicable to the defendant, the trial court instructed on the ordinary meaning of the word "dispense."  The Appellate Court said that this was improper when there was an applicable statutory definition.  These verbs should, therefore, only be used in a case involving a practitioner. 

Because the trial court is primarily faced with illegal street sales, the instructions in this section are limited to "sells" and "possesses with the intent to sell." 

The definition of "sale" in 21a-240 (5) encompasses a broad range of transactions. See State v. Webster, 308 Conn. 43, 54-55 (2013) (sales includes offers to sell and attempts to transfer narcotics; there is no requirement that a drug transaction be completed before liability may be imposed); State v. Wassil, 233 Conn. 174, 193 (1995) (a gift of narcotics comes within the meaning of the statutory definition of sale).

Defining the Controlled Substance
"Controlled substance" is defined as any "drug, substance, or immediate precursor in schedules I to V, inclusive, of the Connecticut controlled substance scheduling regulations adopted pursuant to section 21a-243."  There are numerous controlled substances within these schedules.  The trial court should ascertain which controlled substance is alleged.  If the substance is within such schedules, the court may instruct that if the jury finds it proved that the substance is what it is alleged to be, it is included within the definition of a controlled substance.  State v. Nieves, 186 Conn. 26, 31 (1982); State v. Vessichio, 197 Conn. 644, 650 (1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1122, 106 S.Ct. 1642, 90 L.Ed.2d 187 (1986); State v. Kiser, 43 Conn. App. 339, 359-60, cert. denied, 239 Conn. 945 (1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1190, 117 S.Ct. 1478, 137 L.Ed.2d 690 (1997).

In some cases, the parties may stipulate to the nature of the substance.  See Stipulations, Instruction 2.6-9.

There are statutory definitions for the following substances, which the court may incorporate into the instructions as appropriate, depending on the nature of the substances alleged in the information:

In some cases, the quantity of the substance determines the punishment.  In these cases the jury will have to make a determination that a certain amount of a given substance was involved. Note that effective July 1, 2011, the possession of less than one-half ounce of a cannabis-type substance is an infraction.

Lesser included offenses
Distribution of any controlled substance other than marijuana ( 21a-277) is a lesser included offense of distribution of certain quantities of specified controlled substances ( 21a-278).  State v. Bradley, 60 Conn. App. 534, 546, cert. denied, 255 Conn. 921 (2000).

Possession ( 21a-279) is a lesser included offense of possession with intent to sell ( 21a-277) as long as the substances are the same.  State v. Johnson, 137 Conn. App. 733, 753 (2012), rev'd on other grounds, 316 Conn. 34 (2015).

Possession of narcotics ( 21a-279) and possession of narcotics within 1500 feet of a school ( 21a-279 (d)) are separate offenses.  State v. Otto, 50 Conn. App. 1, 20, cert. denied, 247 Conn. 927 (1998).  But possession of cocaine under 21a-279 (a) is a lesser included offense of possession of cocaine with intent to sell under 21a-278 (b) and possession with intent to sell within 1500 feet of a school under 21a-279 (d).  State v. Barnes, 47 Conn. App. 590, 592 (1998).

Multiple offenses
Possession of two narcotic substances at the same time does not constitute two separate offenses under 21a-279 (a).  State v. Rawls, 198 Conn. 111 (1985).


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