Connecticut Criminal Law & Injury Blog

victim, East Hartford criminal defense attorneyWhen a person is accused of committing a crime, he or she is afforded a number of rights. Most of them have their basis in the U.S. Constitution and the guarantee of due process of law. The Constitution, however, does not address each and every right that a person may or may not have and is rather silent regarding the rights of those who have been victimized by the accused’s alleged crimes. Thus, the rights of crime victims have long been a topic for debate in legal circles and among the general public. Last month, the Connecticut Supreme Court handed down a ruling one such disputed right—a ruling that has left some people concerned about the transparency of criminal legal proceedings.

An Ongoing Criminal Matter

The issue was brought before the state’s highest court as the result of a ruling by a lower court in a sexual assault case. The defendant—a 46-year-old former teacher’s aide—is charged with sex crimes related to an ongoing sexual relationship she allegedly had with a 15-year-old boy, beginning when the boy was under her care at a preschool. She is also charged with molesting the boy’s 16-year-old friend.

Before the case was slated for trial, the prosecutors and defense lawyers engaged in informal, off-the-record, pretrial discussions about plea bargains in chambers rather than in open court. The attorney representing the 15-year-old alleged victim filed a motion so that he, as counsel) could be allowed to be present for those discussions. The trial court rejected the motion, and the appeal of the denial eventually reached the Supreme Court.

A Definitive Decision

The Connecticut Supreme Court ultimately sided with the trial court, pointing out that the state’s constitution—specifically the 29th Amendment—does not give criminal defendants the right to attend informal, in-chambers disposition discussions. Therefore, alleged victims and, by proxy, their attorneys, do not have the right to attend such discussions. In a concurring opinion, one justice pointed out the substantial difference between “disposition conferences” which take place on the record in open court and informal “chambers discussions.” Both the accused and the alleged victim have the right to attend in-court proceedings, but their presence during off-the-record conversations is not a guaranteed right.

Transparency Concerns

The trial court judge determined that “the confidential nature of these discussions is a key component to their efficacy,” which is why victims and defendants cannot be part of them. Victims’ advocates, however, insist that the presence of a victim’s attorney does not mean that he or she needs to speak or contribute to the discussions. “This certainly makes things less transparent for the victims,” said James Clark, an attorney with the Victims’ Rights Center of Connecticut and counsel for the 15-year-old alleged victim in the case.

Facing Criminal Charges?

In any criminal case, the rights of both the accused and the alleged victim are important and must be protected to ensure a proper application of the law. If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, an experienced East Hartford criminal defense attorney can provide the skilled guidance you need. Call 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.

 

Sources:

http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Court-rules-crime-victims-can-t-attend-plea-12399064.php

https://www.jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROcr/CR327/327CR117.pdf

https://www.jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROcr/CR327/327CR117A.pdf

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underinsured, East Hartford car accident lawyerThe state of Connecticut—like every other state—requires motorists to carry a minimum amount of liability coverage. Liability insurance is designed to help you cover any damages or injuries that may result from accidents for which you are at fault. Specifically, a driver must have at least $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident for bodily injury liability and $10,000 per accident for property damage liability.

Connecticut also requires drivers to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage with the same minimums. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is intended to protect the driver and his or her passengers in the event of an accident in which the at-fault driver is either uninsured or does not have sufficient insurance to cover all of the injuries sustained.

Sometimes, however, an injured driver’s own insurance carrier may stall or delay when it comes time to pay up. Such was the case for a Niantic woman who recently reached a settlement with her insurance company after being involved in a crash caused by an underinsured driver.

Rear-End Accident on I-95

The accident occurred in 2014 on Interstate 95 when traffic began to slow in the left lane. A 36-year-old woman was rear-ended, and her BMW was pushed into the car in front of her. That car was then pushed into the vehicle in front of it. According to court documents, the woman suffered a herniated disc, which affected the nerves down her left leg. The male driver of the car who hit her was issued a citation for following too closely.

The at-fault driver—a resident of Oregon—carried $100,000 in coverage with State Farm and an excess policy covering $20,000 with Geico. Earlier this year, the woman received the full amount of both policies, but the settlement was not sufficient to cover her injuries, her attorneys maintained. She sought an additional $120,000 from her own carrier Liberty Mutual.

The case was scheduled to go to trial this month, but the two sides were able to reach an agreement before the trial began. Liberty Mutual agreed to pay the woman the $120,000 she was seeking after the company’s doctors reviewed her medical history and spoke with her orthopedic specialist. The victim’s attorney indicated that he believed the settlement “was very fair and accurately represented the fair market value for this type of case.”

Seeking Compensation for Your Injuries

In the wake of an auto accident, you may be prepared for a fight with the other party’s insurance company, but most people do not expect to encounter problems with their own carriers. Unfortunately, such disputes are all too common, as insurance carriers often try to minimize payouts—even at the expense of their customers.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, an experienced East Hartford personal injury attorney can help you deal with stubborn insurance carriers. Contact Woolf Law Firm, LLC to discuss your options at a free consultation today. Call 860-290-8690 to get the quality representation you deserve.

 

Sources:

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2008/rpt/2008-R-0493.htm

https://www.law.com/ctlawtribune/sites/ctlawtribune/2017/12/13/niantic-woman-rear-ended-on-i-95-gets-240000-settlement/

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verdict, East Hartford personal injury attorneyWhen most people think about a personal injury lawsuit, an auto accident dispute between two strangers may come to mind first. Or, their thoughts may turn to a slip-and-fall incident at a retail store, leading to months of litigation by the victim against a large corporation and their insurance companies. Sometimes, however, a personal injury case may begin as a disagreement between friends which escalates to unnecessary violence. Such was the case between two college students whose case was recently decided by a Derby Superior Court jury.

A Physical Altercation

According to court documents, the incident took place in April of 2014 following a party at Quinnipiac University in Hamden. The plaintiff was riding in the front seat of the defendant’s car when he reportedly became concerned about the defendant’s ability to drive. The driver had allegedly been drinking and his driving had become erratic. The plaintiff claims that he repeatedly asked the driver to pull over, and the driver got angry and violent, punching the plaintiff in the head.

The plaintiff’s complaint said that driver stopped the car, “got out of the car, put the plaintiff in a headlock, and again starting punching the plaintiff in the head and face.” The plaintiff was able to break free and he ran from the car. The defendant reportedly chased him and continued the assault. The plaintiff’s attorney said that four passengers in the back seat of the car witnessed the attack and tried to stop it. When police arrived at the scene, the plaintiff declined to press charges because the two men involved were friends.

In the weeks and months that followed, the plaintiff said he was diagnosed and treated for a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The plaintiff filed suit in May 2017 seeking damages for medical bills and noneconomic damages related to his injuries.

Verdict Holds Defendant Responsible

While there was no associated criminal trial for the alleged assault, it only took the jury about 45 minutes to return its verdict following six days of proceedings. Attorneys for the plaintiff believe that the expert testimony of several doctors regarding the victim’s condition swayed the jury who found in favor of the plaintiff. The jury awarded the man more than $22,000 in medical damages and $1 million for noneconomic losses including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Our Firm Can Help

If you or someone you love has been injured due to the actions or negligence of another person, you may be entitled to collect compensation for your injuries. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we will help you analyze your situation and determine the best course of action for moving forward. Call 860-290-8690 for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced East Hartford personal injury attorney today.

 

Sources:

https://www.law.com/ctlawtribune/sites/ctlawtribune/2017/12/07/college-student-beaten-by-friend-after-party-awarded-more-than-1-million/

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sR7gYr_3maddRkQQUbMvYdTGt64GvjtU/view

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death, East Hartford criminal defense attorneyFor decades, drug dealers have faced serious criminal consequences if they were caught selling illegal substances like cocaine, heroin, prescription pills, marijuana or other drugs. Now, because of a disturbing increase in drug overdoses, those who sell drugs may be facing even more severe penalties.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for those under the age of 50. In 2016, overdoses were linked to the death of approximately 64,000 people in the U.S. Some states have already been able to legally charge dealers of drugs like cocaine or heroin with first-degree murder if the drugs they sold led to a person’s death through overdose. However, the proliferation of a new drug called fentanyl has caused legislators to sanction even stricter laws.

Fentanyl is a drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. It is often combined with heroin—sometimes without the dealer or buyer’s knowledge. Fentanyl is intended to be used for anesthesia or for managing chronic pain. When prescribed and monitored by a medical professional, it can be a beneficial drug, but when recreational users underestimate the amount of fentanyl they are consuming, it can be deadly. Fentanyl caused 20,100 deaths in 2016 in the United States alone. This represents a staggering 540% increase in overdose deaths caused by the drug in the last three years.

Drug Dealers Could Face the Death Penalty

Last year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a law expanding the state’s first-degree murder code to include selling a lethal dose of fentanyl. The law took effect October 1, 2016. A person who sells fentanyl-containing drugs to another which results in their death can be charged even if they did not know that the drugs contained the deadly substance. If any fatal mixture is found to contain fentanyl, the dealer can be charged with first-degree murder.

Sentences for those convicted of first-degree murder may include life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. Whether a drug dealer should face the same punishment as someone who intentionally killed another is a source of controversy. Some people think that first-degree murder charges should be reserved for those who kill with malicious intent. Proponents of the new stricter law believe that extreme action needs to be taken to help slow the explosion of opioid overdoses in recent years.

Facing Drug Charges?

In Connecticut, a person who provides drugs that lead to fatalities may be charged with second-degree manslaughter. The offense is defined as “recklessly causing the death of another person,” but there are no mandatory minimum penalties. Lawmakers are considering measures that would make causing a drug-induced death a murder charge, but there is a great deal of debate on the issue.

If you have been charged with a crime related to drug distribution, you need an attorney who knows the law. Contact an experienced East Hartford criminal defense attorney right away. We will aggressively work to protect your rights. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.

 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/02/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdose-deaths.html

https://www.thedailybeast.com/florida-could-become-the-first-state-to-execute-drug-dealers

http://www.greenwichtime.com/local/article/Survivors-lawmakers-push-for-sticter-sentences-12381779.php

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