Connecticut Criminal Law & Injury Blog

charges, Connecticut personal injury attorneyIn today’s digitally connected world, virtually everyone has a voice that can be heard across the globe. Most people, however, do not really think of social media that way, largely limiting their posts and ideas to their friends, families, and followers. Sometimes, though, a social media post can cause a great deal of trouble for the poster, including the danger of being arrested. While it is not common for a person to be arrested for the things they say online, it can and occasionally does happen.

New Hampshire Man Arrested for Criminal Defamation

In May of last year, a man in New Hampshire was arrested by local police for comments he posted on Facebook. The man had not made any threats nor were his comments harassing anyone. Instead, the police allege that he violated the state’s law regarding criminal defamation—sometimes called criminal libel in other jurisdictions. The New Hampshire law makes it a criminal offense for a person to “purposely communicate to any person, orally or in writing, and information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.”

So, what was the false information that the man posted? It turns out that the man had simply posted a comment on an article published online by the local paper about a local police officer. His comment said that the officer “is the dirtiest most corrupt cop that I have ever had the displeasure of knowing.” He also called the local police chief a “coward” who “did nothing about it.” The man was arrested on charges of criminal defamation, but the case was dismissed after the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division criticized the arrest.

The man has now filed a lawsuit against the New Hampshire Attorney General looking to have the law declared unconstitutional for violating the First Amendment.

Criminal Defamation and Libel

It is unreasonable to think that one can simply say anything—even online—without the potential for criminal consequences. For example, it is understandably a crime in most jurisdictions for a person to make threats of violence on social media. In fact, an East Hartford High School student was arrested for breach of peace related to threats that he made online. Local police spent significant time and resources to address the threats, so a criminal charge was largely in order.

Laws that pertain to criminal defamation and libel are much more concerning. While Connecticut does not have such criminal laws on its books, the nearby states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts both do. Critics of such laws say that they are “unconstitutionally vague,” which means that local police can basically choose who to go after and when.

Civil laws exist that address defamation and libel but those typically require a victim to show that he or she was harmed by the published or posted information in some way. In practice, however, it appears that law enforcement and public officials are disproportionately pushing for criminal libel prosecutions, possibly because their critics do not have the money to make a civil suit worth the effort. Many of those who are prosecuted also lack the resources to hire a competent defense attorney, leading to guilty pleas and convictions regardless of whether their speech was truly defamation or libel.

Contact an East Hartford Defense Attorney

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges for posts that you made online, contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation and case review at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.

 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/07/us/politics/criminal-libel-laws-lawsuit.html

https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/frese-v-macdonald-complaint

https://www.wfsb.com/news/student-arrested-for-east-hartford-high-school-social-media-threat/article_313d1886-6145-5348-9d1f-5b517f48435f.html

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eyewitness, East Hartford criminal defense attorneyConsider a hypothetical scenario in which you are in line at your bank waiting for a teller to call you over. Suddenly, at one of the other teller windows, you see a person holding a gun. The person is yelling for everyone to get down and demanding that the bank employee hand over cash. You realize that there is little to be gained from arguing with a person holding a gun, so you get down on the floor and cover your head with your arms—but not before you sneak a look at the would-be robber’s face.

Now for the million-dollar question: Would you be able to accurately describe the face you saw when the police get your statement later? If you were like most people, you would probably answer the question with a resounding “yes.” If you really were like most people, however, the description you give would probably not match images taken from the bank’s security cameras as closely as you might expect, even though you reported everything exactly as you remembered it.  This is one the major weaknesses in eyewitness testimony and one of the most important things to keep in mind if anyone ever claims that they saw you commit a crime.

Child Shooting Victim in Houston

On Sunday, December 30, a 7-year-old Houston girl named Jazmine Barnes was killed when a gunman opened fire on the car in which she, her sisters, and her mother were sitting. When the mother and her surviving daughters were asked what they saw, they told police they remembered a red pickup truck being driven by a thin white man in his 30s or 40s who had a five-o’clock shadow. For several days, police in the area used the description as a basis for their investigation, but an anonymous tip started pushing investigators in a different direction.

This past Sunday—one week after the shooting—authorities in Texas announced that they had arrested and charged a 20-year-old black man with capital murder in relation to the shooting. A second man—who is also black—was arrested and charged a few days later. Prosecutors have indicated that the men shot up the car in the belief that it was the car of some people they had gotten into an altercation with the previous night.

A Possible Explanation

Several experts have come forward to offer a reasonable explanation for why the victim’s family remembered the shooter wrong. They largely agree that a traumatic situation pushes a person’s brain into survival mode in which smaller details become irrelevant. It is more important to see the bigger picture and to find an avenue for escape than for the brain to make a note of what color an assailant’s eyes are or whether the assailant is old or young.

When a person is pressed for details after the fact, his or her brain is likely to fill in the gaps of what is missing. Sometimes the fill-in information might be other things the person saw around the same time or details that the brain simply assumes. This often happens naturally with no attempts to deceive on the part of the witness. In fact, the witness might truly remember a version of events that never occurred.

Law enforcement officials believe that there was a red pickup truck on the scene and that it was probably driven by a thin white man in his 30s or 40s. That man, however, is no longer considered a suspect. The police are now hoping to get in touch with him as another potential witness to the crime.

Call a Hartford Defense Attorney for Help

If you are facing criminal charges based on another person’s eyewitness testimony, an experienced Connecticut criminal defense lawyer can help you build an aggressive defense. Call 860-290-8690 for a free, confidential consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.

 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/06/science/stress-trauma-eyewitness-events.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/01/09/jazmine-barnes-second-man-charged-7-year-olds-shooting-death/2522767002/

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/07/us/jazmine-barnes-shooting-differing-accounts/index.html

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hockey, Connecticut personal injury attorneyThe group that owns Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard was found to be negligent in a premises liability case involving an 8-year-old boy who fell from the stands during a hockey game. A Bridgeport Superior Court jury has ordered the group to pay $200,000 in damages to the boy who is still reportedly suffering from post-concussion syndrome more than five years later.

An Unfortunate Event

The incident occurred in October 2013 while the then 8-year-old and his family were attending the Bridgeport Sound Tigers game at Webster Bank Arena. Before the game started, the boy was leaning against a railing at the edge of the spectator area attempting to give high-fives to the players as they emerged from the locker room on their way to the ice. According to court documents, spectators—especially children—were not only allowed to greet the players at the railing but they were actively encouraged to do so.

As the boy greeted the players, the railing upon which he was leaning gave way. The boy fell and hit his head on the floor below, suffering a concussion, shoulder strain, and other injuries. Fortunately, he was the only person injured by the failure of the rail.

The Lawsuit

The boy’s parents filed a lawsuit on his behalf against the ownership group responsible for the arena. The suit alleged carelessness and negligence on the part of the owners in not recognizing that children would put their weight against the railing while greeting the players. The lawsuit claimed that the boy still suffers from the effects of his injuries and sought financial compensation.

Attorneys for the ownership group countered the claims by alleging that the child contributed to his own injuries in that “he failed to use that degree of care that an ordinarily prudent person would have exercised for his own safety,” even taking into account his age and maturity. The defense also maintained that the boy’s parents failed to supervise him adequately.

After eight days of testimony, the jury only deliberated for three hours before returning a verdict last month. The jury found in favor of the boy and his family, awarding them $200,000 in damages. The jury did not determine that the boy was contributorily negligent. The defense has until January 6, 2019, to appeal if they choose to do so.

The Importance of Foreseeability

The idea of foreseeability is important in any premises liability case, though it is easier to recognize in certain situations. For example, if a spill occurs in a grocery store and employees fail to clean it up or even to mark the areas, it is foreseeable that someone might slip and fall. Therefore, the store could be held liable for any injuries that occur as a result of such a fall.

In the case described above, it appears that the jury determined that spectators leaning on the rail to greet the hockey players presented a foreseeable danger—one that could have been resolved by securing the railing to withstand the weight of spectators. By failing to secure the rail, arena management left themselves open to a liability lawsuit.

Call a Hartford Injury Lawyer for Guidance

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident that could have been prevented with reasonable care by the owner of the property, contact an experienced Connecticut personal injury lawyer for help. Call 860-290-8690 for a free, no-obligation consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.

 

Sources:

https://www.law.com/ctlawtribune/2018/12/17/jury-awards-200000-after-boy-suffers-concussion-from-fall-at-hockey-match/

http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/DocumentInquiry/DocumentInquiry.aspx?DocumentNo=15642304

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crashes, Connecticut personal injury attorneyChristmas has officially come and gone once again. While some families will still be celebrating through the coming weekend, the Connecticut State Police has released data on the types of arrests, citations, and situations requiring police assistance over the holiday. According to the data, DUI arrests went up substantially over last year, and the number of traffic accidents also increased. Total calls for police service jumped by about one-third.

A Look at the Numbers

The State Police provided the information to news outlets this week and included data on calls between 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 21 and 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 26. During that period, state troopers arrested 55 individuals on suspicion of driving under the influence. This number is almost double the arrests that were made during last year’s holiday enforcement efforts. In 2017, State Police officers made 28 DUI arrests between December 22 and December 26.

This year’s numbers include an extra day, which could help explain the increase in traffic accidents. This year, troopers responded to 550 crashes, including 60 that involved at least one injury and three fatal accidents. Last year, 521 accidents were investigated, 58 of which involved injuries and one death. It is too soon to tell how many of the accidents this year were related to drunk driving.

Altogether, troopers responded to 8,435 service calls this year compared to 6,737 last year. It is important to recognize that these numbers only represent cases involving the Connecticut State Police. Arrests or investigations by local police departments are not included.

Don’t Become a Statistic This New Year’s

With Christmas celebrations winding down, many are turning their attention to New Year’s Eve parties. New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest party nights of the entire year, and most such parties involve alcohol. If you are going to be celebrating, do so responsibly and have a safe way to get home. Designate a sober driver, call a cab, or get an Uber, but do not drive drunk—or even buzzed. The risks are too great.

If you plan to be out and about on New Year’s Eve—regardless of whether you are drinking—be extra cautious. Be aware of other drivers on the road, and look for warning signs of intoxication. Excessive swerving, inconsistent speed, and sloppy turns could be indicators of potential danger. If you suspect that a vehicle near you is being driven by a drunk driver, slow down and give the other the car extra room. Once it safe to do so, you may want to contact the local police to help keep other drivers safe as well.

Call a Connecticut Injury Lawyer for Help

Of course, you could do everything right and still end up being injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver. If this happens to you or someone you love, contact an experienced Connecticut personal injury attorney to discuss your options for seeking compensation. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Conn-troopers-arrest-54-DUI-drivers-during-13492485.php

https://drivingschool.net/new-years-driving-statistics-facts/

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