State v. Webster
Criminal liability under Connecticut General Statutes §21a-278a(b), which prohibits, inter alia, the sale of narcotics within 1500 feet of a school, attaches when a drug transaction begins within 1500 feet of a school, but culminates elsewhere. The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. Jeanne Pereira met Kenneth Webster behind a school to purchase crack cocaine. Webster drove Pereira in his vehicle beyond 1500 feet of the school and returned. Sometime while driving, Webster gave Pereira crack cocaine for $80. Pereira exited Webster's vehicle and was stopped by police conducting surveillance. Webster later was arrested. Following a jury trial, Webster was convicted of, relevantly, sale of narcotics within 1500 feet of a school in violation of C.G.S. §21a-278a(b). The Appellate Court found insufficient evidence to support that conviction because C.G.S. §21a-278a(b) required the state to prove that the defendant had effected a deliveryan actual, constructive or attempted transfer of crack cocaine to Pereira within1500 feet of the school. Because the state had failed to prove the physical transfer occurred within that 1500 foot zone, the Appellate Court reversed the judgment. The state was granted certification to appeal. The Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court's judgment. The plain language of the relevant statutes does not limit criminal liability to an actual, physical transfer of narcotics within 1500 feet of a school. It also imposes criminal liability for offers and attempts to sell narcotics within the 1500 foot zone. The Court considered the definition of "sale" in C.G.S. §21a-240(50), "delivery" in C.G.S. §21a-240(11) and the common meaning of "offer." Given that C.G.S. §21a-240(50) encompasses "each such transaction" set forth therein, the statute indicates no requirement that any drug transaction be completed before liability may be imposed. The state was not required to prove that the actual, physical transfer of narcotics occurred within 1500 feet of the school; it was sufficient for the state to prove that the defendant engaged in conduct that constituted an offer to sell narcotics within the 1500 foot zone. The defendant raised a claim of instructional error on intent which was found waived under the 2011 Supreme Court decision of State v. Kitchens. Chief Justice Rogers concurred separately noting that plain error review of the instructional error claim was not requested.