Public Act 11-71 was intended to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana as well as the possession of drug paraphernalia for use with small amounts of marijuana, presumably for personal use.
What the Act did was to create two new offenses:
In both cases, an adult, a person over the age of 18, would only pay a fine and not face any period of incarceration.
In the case of the possession of under ½ ounce of marijuana, which is now incorporated into the statutes as CGS §21a-279a, the penalty is:
For the possession of drug paraphernalia for use with under ½ ounce of marijuana, which is now incorporated into the statutes as CGS §21a-267(d), the penalty is also only a fine. According to the Superior Court Mail-In Violations and Infractions Schedule, effective October 1, 2012, the fine is $90 plus fees and surcharges of $46 for a total of $136.
Since the juvenile court does not impose fines and because both of these new offenses would be classified as “delinquent acts” by CGS §46b-120(9) , the maximum penalty for a child, a person under the age of 18, would be a commitment to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for an indeterminate period up to 18 months, with a possible extension for another 18 months if the court found that such extension would be the best interest of the child or the community.
So while the Act decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and the possession of drug paraphernalia for use with small amounts of marijuana for adults, it didn’t have any significant impact on children who commit those offenses.
The Act also amended CGS §14-111e and provided for sanctions to be imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when a person under the age of 21 is convicted of either of the new offenses created by the Act.
One problem with this provision is that the Act did not amend CGS §46b-124(k) which authorizes and mandates that the juvenile court inform the DMV of the conviction of a child (a person under the age of 18) for either of these offenses. Due to the confidentiality of juvenile court records, that leaves it up to the prosecutor in the juvenile court or the juvenile probation officer to request, on a case by case basis, that the judge authorize the Clerk to notify the DMV of the conviction.
The Act also amended CGS §51-164n lowering the amount of proof necessary to convict a person of either of the two new offenses. In both cases, the amount of proof required to convict was reduced from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to the much lower amount of “preponderance of the evidence.”
In juvenile cases however, both of these new offenses are deemed to be “delinquent acts” as that phrase is defined in CGS §46b-120(9) for any person under the age of 18. Because these charges are “delinquent acts,” to convict a child of a “delinquent act” the State is required by Practice Book §30a-3 to prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Therefore, the police handling of the evidence is different in juvenile cases. See below.
Presumably because of this reduced standard of proof, the Act also provided in CGS §21a-279a(b) that the law enforcement officer issuing a complaint for possession of under ½ ounce of marijuana “shall seize the cannabis-type substance and cause such substance to be destroyed as contraband in accordance with law.” While this is fine for adults charged with this offense, because the standard of proof is only “preponderance of the evidence,” it will not be sufficient in juvenile cases to just test and photograph the evidence. In juvenile cases, since the standard of proof is still “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the evidence must be handled and preserved in the same manner as any other evidence in a criminal trial.