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Connecticut Criminal Law: An Overview

When you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, your first response may be panic. Without knowing more about the criminal justice system, it can be hard to understand what the appropriate path is to take. Understanding the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, for example, can go a long way in preparing you.

What is the Difference Between Crimes in Connecticut?

Connecticut has three different crime classifications, or levels, which depend on severity and seriousness of the criminal offense. The least severe classification in Connecticut is known as a violation. Violations usually only result in a fine. Some crimes are not designated under either misdemeanor or felony but still carry potential jail time.


Misdemeanors are divided by class (A-D) and some are unclassified.

Examples of Class A misdemeanors include:

  • Pirating records, tapes or film without consent
  • Leaving a child unsupervised risking their health or safety
  • Using a credit card scanning device for illegal purposes
  • Certain types of criminally negligent homicide

The penalty for Class A misdemeanors is either a fine of $2,000 or up to a year of jail time.

Examples of Class B misdemeanors include:

  • Some illegal gambling activities
  • Certain types of academic cheating
  • Public indecency

The penalty for Class B misdemeanors is a fine of $1,000 or up to six months in jail.

Examples of Class C misdemeanors include:

  • Possession of a keg lacking proper identification tag
  • Certain types of fraudulent activity
  • Altering a manufacturer’s serial number for illegal purposes

The penalty for Class C misdemeanors is either a fine of $500 or up to three months of jail time.

Class D misdemeanors are not common, and this type of misdemeanor is the least serious of the category. Penalties may include up to $250 in fines and up to 30 days in jail. State statute defining the crime applies to unclassified misdemeanors.

Whether you intend to plead not guilty or guilty, it is a good idea to speak with a Connecticut criminal defense attorney before arraignment to avoid any additional legal issues. An attorney can protect your rights and may be able to negotiate a reduction in charges and penalties.


Felonies are divided into classifications (A through E) or left as unclassified. All felonies are punishable by at least one year in prison.

  • Class A felonies are punishable by a minimum 10-year prison sentence with the potential for life in prison. Fines of up to $20,000 also may apply.
  • Class B felonies could mean a prison sentence ranging from one to 40 years and a fine of up to $15,000.
  • Class C felonies are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
  • Class D felonies are punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison sentence of one to five years.
  • ?Class E felonies? are the least serious felony level in Connecticut. They are punishable by a 1-3 year prison term.

Subsequent felony convictions may result in harsher prison sentences for repeat offenders.

Connecticut Drunk Driving Laws

Connecticut law has harsh penalties for a charge of operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs, commonly also referred to as driving while impaired (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI). Connecticut is also an “implied consent” state, which means by having a driver’s license you consent to submit to a chemical test to check for drugs, controlled substances (such as prescription drugs), or alcohol.

State law says that a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% or higher in drivers older than 21 is illegal. The state has a zero-tolerance law for any drivers under the legal drinking age of 21.

Penalties for a DUI criminal case may include a driver’s license suspension or revocation, as well as the following based on the number of offenses on record within 10 years:

  • First Violation:
    • Up to $1,000 in fines
    • Up to six months in jail
    • Probation and 100 hours of community service for a suspended prison sentence
  • Second Violation:
    • Up to $4,000 in fines
    • Up to two years in prison
    • Probation and 100 hours of community service
    • Court-ordered alcohol and drug abuse assessment and treatment
  • Third Violation:
    • Up to $8,000 in fines
    • Up to three years in prison
    • Probation and 100 hours of community service
    • Court-ordered alcohol and drug abuse assessment and treatment
    • Possible permanent revocation of driver’s license

Is Marijuana Legal?

Recreational use and possession of marijuana is not legal, but possession of small amounts has been decriminalized. Medical marijuana, however, is permitted for authorized patients with certain medical conditions.

Anyone caught with less than one-half ounce of weed faces civil penalties. Possession of more than one-half ounce may result in a Class A misdemeanor charge, up to one year in jail, and a $2,000 fine on the first offense.

Searching for Legal Counsel

Have you been accused of a crime? Do you need to research criminal defense lawyers to find the right one for you? Only you can decide which criminal lawyer to hire. Keeping the following facts in mind while deciding on a law firm may help:

  • Does the law office offer a free consultation?
  • What practice areas do they cover? Do they have experience handling criminal charges like yours? For example, do they usually handle white-collar crime defense or sexual assault? Or do they more commonly defend against domestic assault criminal charges?
  • Do they have a proven track record as trial lawyers?
  • Can you imagine the attorney supporting you every step of the way?

You need a strong advocate to protect your rights. Learning more about criminal law can help you understand the criminal charges you or your loved one are facing. Take the time to learn about the criminal justice system and put your criminal defense lawyer to work for you to minimize any unnecessary legal issues.

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