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Connecticut Criminal Defense LawyerHigh-speed car chases can be exciting in movies or TV shows, but when they take place in the real world, they are likely to cause serious injuries or deaths. When police officers choose to chase a vehicle, they often put multiple people at risk, including innocent bystanders such as pedestrians and people in other vehicles. While officers may pursue a person for a variety of reasons, often claiming that doing so is necessary to protect public safety, most police chases involve minor traffic violations rather than serious criminal charges

Injuries and Deaths in Police Chases

Determining the actual number of people who have been injured or killed because of police chases is somewhat difficult. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the primary source of data regarding traffic-related deaths. However, reports to the NHTSA by police departments do not always state that deaths occurred in a police chase, and records may not indicate whether a person who was killed was a participant in a chase or an innocent bystander. Determining the number of people injured is even more difficult since the NHTSA only tracks fatal accidents.

By analyzing data from the past several decades, researchers have estimated that an average of 323 people are killed each year in police chases, and innocent bystanders account for 27 percent of these deaths. While the actual number of injuries suffered in police chases is unknown, it is estimated that as many as 7,400 people per year are injured. Minorities are disproportionately affected, with Black people being three times more likely to be killed in police chases as either suspects or bystanders.

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hartford defense lawyerThe “war on drugs” has led law enforcement officials to crack down on anyone who is suspected of illegally possessing, selling, distributing, or manufacturing controlled substances. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there has been an increase in the number of drug overdoses related to fentanyl. Because of this, authorities may be looking to pursue drug charges against those who are accused of possessing this substance. Anyone who has been arrested for drug possession or distribution will need to secure representation from a criminal defense lawyer.

Increased Concerns About Fentanyl and Cocaine

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that has become more available in recent years, since it is fairly easy and inexpensive to manufacture. It is highly addictive, and it is often more potent than other opioid drugs. Recently, officials have raised concerns about an increased number of overdoses involving the combination of fentanyl and cocaine. These overdoses may have occurred because the drugs were unintentionally mixed together or because drug users attempted to use multiple substances at the same time. Those who have not built up a tolerance for fentanyl are more likely to experience dangerous or fatal overdoses.

Fentanyl-Related Drug Charges in Connecticut

Under Connecticut law, illegal possession of a controlled substance may be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, and a conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to one year, as well as a maximum fine of $2,000. However, law enforcement officials may pursue charges for possession of controlled substances with the intent to sell, distribute, give, or administer these substances to someone else. The specific charges will usually be based on the amount of drugs that are found in a person’s possession, and even seemingly small amounts of fentanyl or other drugs could lead to charges of illegally manufacturing, distributing, or selling controlled substances.

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hartford defense lawyerImmigrants to the United States may run afoul of a variety of laws that could affect their immigration status. There are multiple issues that could potentially lead to deportation, including being convicted of certain types of crimes. In some cases, law enforcement officials may ask a person to cooperate with an investigation, telling them that by doing so, they can receive an S visa that will allow them to remain in the United States. However, criminal justice and immigration advocates have found that these types of visas are rarely granted, and in many cases, immigrants will still face deportation even if they cooperate with law enforcement and meet all of their legal requirements.

Problems With S Visas

S visas, which are commonly known as “snitch visas,” are available for those who have provided assistance to a law enforcement agency as a witness or informant in a criminal investigation. Up to 200 S visas can be issued each year for people who assist with criminal cases, and an additional 50 visas can be issued in cases related to terrorism investigations. Initially, a person will be allowed to stay in the U.S. with a nonimmigrant status, and if they meet all requirements during the investigation where they are serving as an informant or witness, they will be allowed to apply for a Green Card and become a Lawful Permanent Resident.

Unfortunately, the S visa system has not functioned in practice the way that it is meant to, and very few of these visas are actually issued. In 2018, only 16 S visas were approved in criminal cases, and since 1995, only six visas have ever been approved in cases related to terrorism. In many cases, S visas take between 5 to 10 years to be processed, and they can be denied at any point, resulting in a person losing their immigration status and being deported, even if they have complied with all government requests and fulfilled all of their obligations during an investigation.

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hartford computer crimes lawyerNearly everyone uses computer systems and electronic devices in their everyday lives, and there are many situations where a person could face criminal charges based on issues such as illegally accessing computer systems or using electronic information incorrectly. Cases involving computer crimes can be complex, and there are many different state and federal laws that may apply in these situations. A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may play a role in cases involving computer and internet crimes, and it may limit the types of charges that may be pursued by prosecutors.

Limits on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) of 1986 prohibits people from accessing a computer and obtaining information they are not authorized to access. While this law was meant to address unauthorized “hacking” of computer systems, courts had interpreted it very broadly, allowing prosecutors to pursue criminal charges in cases where a person had exceeded their authorized access. A person who was authorized to use a computer or network could potentially be prosecuted for using the system outside of what they had specifically been allowed to do. This meant that criminal charges could apply for a number of commonplace activities, such as using a work computer for personal purposes.

These issues were addressed in the case of Van Buren v. United States. This case involved a police officer who accepted money in exchange for performing an unauthorized search of a state license plate database. The officer had been convicted of a felony violation of the CFAA. In reviewing this case, the Supreme Court addressed whether the CFAA can be used to prosecute a person who was authorized to access a computer system but exceeded the scope of what they were allowed to do. The court determined that a broad interpretation of the CFAA would criminalize a number of common activities, such as minor violations of a website’s terms of service. 

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Hartford criminal defense lawyerMarijuana use has become more and more accepted over the past decade, and multiple states have chosen to legalize this substance. The state of Connecticut will soon be joining these ranks after Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill that will make marijuana legal for recreational use. Some of the bill’s provisions will go into effect as soon as July 1, 2021. In addition to affecting criminal cases involving drug charges, this new law may also play a role in cases involving juvenile crimes, probation violations, and clearing of criminal records.

Details of Connecticut’s New Marijuana Law

Starting on July 1, 2021, people over the age of 21 will be allowed to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis plant materials on their person or an equivalent amount of products containing marijuana. A person may also possess up to five ounces of marijuana in a locked container in their residence or that is locked inside the trunk or glove compartment of a vehicle. The law has also eliminated the criminal penalties for manufacturing, selling, or using drug paraphernalia related to marijuana, and it reduced the penalties for illegally manufacturing or selling marijuana. 

The law made a number of other changes that will affect criminal cases, including:

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