Connecticut Criminal Law & Injury Blog

motorcycle, East Hartford personal injury attorneyWarmer weather has finally arrived in the Northeast, which means that riders across the region have pulled their motorcycles out of winter storage. There are few experiences that are quite as freeing as cruising open road on a motorcycle on a warm sunny day. Unfortunately, there are few experiences that are quite as dangerous, as well. Several Connecticut motorcycle riders have lost their lives already this riding season, and many more are likely as the season continues. A new report suggests that while motorcycle fatalities dropped in Connecticut last year, they did not drop enough to match the national average. This means that riders in Connecticut may be statistically more at risk than those in other states.

Good News and Bad News

Last month, the Governors Highway Safety Association released a report based on preliminary data regarding 2017 motorcycle traffic fatalities. The report estimated that there were about 300 fewer motorcycle-related deaths in 2017 than in 2016—a drop of about 5.6 percent. Motorcycle fatalities represented about 14 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States in 2017.

While these numbers represent decent progress nationwide, Connecticut seems to be struggling to keep up with other states regarding rider safety. Motorcycle fatalities accounted for 17.7 percent of all traffic-related deaths in Connecticut last year, and the state’s 51 motorcycle deaths in 2017 represented a mere 2 percent decrease from the 52 deaths in 2016.

The Debate Over Helmets Continues

Safety experts suggest that part of the issue in Connecticut could be the state law that allows adult motorcycle riders to ride without a helmet if they choose. Many riders insist that it should be their choice whether or not to wear a helmet, but research shows that head and neck injuries are more likely when a rider chooses to ride helmetless.

In states where helmets are optional, fewer than half of adult riders use them, thereby increasing their risk for injury or death. Considering that, per mile driven, motorcycle riders are 28 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of passenger vehicles, one would think that more riders would take such a simple precaution as wearing a helmet.

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?

At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we understand the dangers that motorcycle riders face every time they hit the road. We also know that a single moment of inattention by another driver can be devastating for a nearby rider. If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a crash caused by someone else, contact an experienced Connecticut personal injury attorney for assistance. We will review your case and help you obtain the full compensation you deserve for your injuries.



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search, East Hartford criminal defense attorneyThe Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees citizens the right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The operative word in that phrase, however, is “unreasonable.” Over the last 240 years, courts at every level have attempted to define what constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure in a variety of situations. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court was presented with two conflicting interpretations of the Fourth Amendment—one as it applies to a person’s home and the other as it applies to a person’s vehicle.

Collins v. Virginia

The case originated in Albemarle County, Virginia in June 2013 where a rider on a distinctive orange and black motorcycle fled and eluded police at high rates of speed twice in the period of several weeks. The police used found the person they believed to be in possession of the motorcycle and that the motorcycle was likely to have been stolen. Using social media, the police were able to link the suspected owner/rider to an orange and black motorcycle. Social media also allowed police to find an address for the suspect.

A local officer went to the address and parked on the street. Court records indicate that the officer saw a motorcycle on the property, covered by a tarp. Based on an exposed wheel, the officer reportedly recognized it as the same type of motorcycle from the fleeing and eluding situations. The officer walked up the driveway, removed the tarp, found the VIN of the motorcycle, and determined that it was the motorcycle that police had been seeking. The police arrested the suspect at the home and upon searching the suspect’s pockets, police found a key to the motorcycle. The suspect was indicted and convicted on charges of possessing stolen property.

Conflicting Interpretations

At trial and on appeal, the suspect maintained that the police did not have probable cause to come onto his property and conduct a warrantless search of the premises or the motorcycle. The Commonwealth of Virginia claimed that the property in question was a vehicle, so the lower standard for a warrantless search of a vehicle applied, not the more stringent standard for searching a home and its surroundings—also known as “curtilage.”

By an 8-1 margin, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the so-called “automobile exception” did not apply in this case. “We conclude that the ‘automobile exception’ [to the Fourth Amendment] does not permit an officer without a warrant to enter a home or its curtilage in order to search a vehicle therein,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion, and only Justice Samuel Alito dissented.

Facing Criminal Charges Related to a Questionable Search?

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime as the result of a search that you believe was unreasonable, contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney. We will work with you in exploring your available options and help you protect your rights at every stage of the proceedings. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation.



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amusement park, Connecticut personal injury attorneySummertime is just about here, which means that people of all ages will soon be planning trips to amusement parks and water parks. While some prefer the tranquility of a miniature train ride or a relaxing soaking pool, others seek the adrenaline rush that comes from the simulated danger on roller coasters and other thrill rides. Unfortunately, not all of the dangers are simulated, and thousands of people are injured at amusement parks every year.

No Federal Oversight

Forty years ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission was responsible for the regulation of mobile carnivals—such as county fairs—and fixed-site amusement parks. During the 1980’s, however, federal lawmakers decided that state and local governments should regulate the fixed-site parks in their respective jurisdiction. Federal regulators still oversee mobile carnivals, but there is no national standard for permanent parks.

The lack of federal oversight means that laws regarding the inspection of rides and other attractions can vary widely by state. In some cases, the parks themselves are even tasked with investigating injuries and fatalities rather than giving that responsibility to a regulatory body.

Huge Numbers

According to the International Association for Amusement Parks, more than 330 million adult and children visit American amusement parks each year. The association says that the likelihood of suffering an injury serious enough to necessitate an overnight hospital stay is one in 16 million, but it is possible to suffer serious injuries that do not require a hospital stay.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that in 2016, more than 30,000 people sought emergency medical treatment for injuries associated with amusement park rides and attractions. That number is not expected to have changed very much in 2017. There have also been 22 deaths linked with amusement parks since 2010, not including water park or water slide fatalities.

Important Safety Tips

If you are planning a trip to an amusement park this summer, there are few things you can do to keep yourself and your children safe. First and foremost, be sure to follow all of the rules and regulations set by the park and ride manufacturers, especially size requirements for specific rides. It may be fun to try to sneak your child on a ride, but size requirements are determined as a safety measure.

You must also stay out of fenced-off areas or parts of the park designated for employees only. Many such areas are intended for ride maintenance, which means you could be putting yourself in harm’s way by being where you are not supposed to be.

Finally, you should always cooperate with ride operators when they are checking latches, lap belts, and other safety features. While it may seem that the staff members are just conducting cursory checks, they are actually ensuring that the safety features are in place to prevent injuries.

We Can Help

In the event that your trip is cut short by an unfortunate injury, contact an experienced Connecticut personal injury attorney. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation to discuss your options for collecting compensation. Let us help you protect your rights.



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sex offender, Hartford criminal defense attorneyIn 2015, the Connecticut General Assembly directed the state’s Sentencing Commission to conduct an in-depth examination of Connecticut’s policies regarding the “assessment, management, treatment, and sentencing of sex offenders.” The two-year study concluded near the end of 2017. As a result of its findings, the Connecticut Sentencing Commission officially recommended a shift from offense-based registration as a sex offender to a system based on the risk an offender poses to the community at large.

The recommendation was formalized as House Bill 5578 in the most recent session of the General Assembly, but the measure never made it past the Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers, however, say that the proposal may have merits, but the discussion is better suited for the longer legislative session next year.

Among the study’s most important findings was the idea that the current laws and guidelines regarding sex offender registration are largely based on decades-old assumptions that have been proven questionable or demonstrably false. According to the Sentencing Commission, three primary myths persist.

Myth #1: Most Sex Offenders Offend Again

The sex offender registry was developed on the concept that public knowledge of a sex offender’s whereabouts would prevent the offender from reoffending in the future. In fact, some local ordinances have directly stated that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is “alarmingly high.” The reality, however, is that at least two Connecticut studies have found that less than 5 percent of convicted sex offenders are re-arrested for a sex crime within five years of their release. This rate is among the lowest among any class of criminal offenders.

Myth #2: Treatment Does Not Work

The same studies that dispel the myth of recidivism also provide a counterargument to the idea that treating sex offenders is a waste of time. Convicted sex offenders are almost always to undergo various types of psychological, psychiatric, and emotional treatment to address the cause of their behavior. The low rate of re-arrests suggests strongly that the approach is clearly working.

Myth #3: “The Concept of ‘Stranger Danger’”

There is a substantial research available that shows that most instances of sexual assault—including those against women and children—are perpetrated by acquaintances and relatives. It is extremely rare for sex crimes to be committed by total strangers. This means that teachers, coaches, members of the clergy, doctors, and babysitters present a greater risk to children than does a convicted sex offender who is a stranger.

The study concluded that the most effective way to prevent recidivism among convicted sex offenders is to allow them to find gainful employment and suitable housing. Under the current registration laws, many offenders struggle to reintegrate into their communities. The commission’s proposal aims to make reintegration more effective, hopefully leading to even lower rates of reoffending.

Contact Us for Help

If you have been accused of a sex crime, the allegation alone has the power to destroy your life. Contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney to discuss your available options today. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation.



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