Hartford Criminal Defense LawyerThe criminal justice system in the United States is meant to be fair, ensuring that those who are accused of crimes can defend themselves and that those who are convicted of crimes will be sentenced appropriately. However, there are many injustices in this system, and defendants often struggle to protect their rights and ensure that they are treated fairly. One issue that has recently received attention is the fact that people who are convicted of crimes may sometimes face longer sentences based on offenses that a jury determined they were not guilty of committing. This practice is known as “acquitted-conduct sentencing,” and it may soon be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

What Is Acquitted-Conduct Sentencing?

In many cases, people who are involved in criminal cases will face multiple charges. When a person is convicted on some charges but acquitted on others, they should only be sentenced based on the charges they were actually convicted for. However, in many cases, judges consider other factors that may warrant an increased sentence, including offenses that a person was acquitted of. This means that even when a person is acquitted of a crime, they may face a sentence similar to what they would have received if they had been convicted of that offense.

The case that the Supreme Court has been asked to review, McClinton v. United States, provides an example of how acquitted-conduct sentencing often works. In this case, the defendant was accused of robbing a pharmacy along with several other people. After the robbery, one of the people involved in the robbery was shot and killed, and the defendant was accused of committing the murder. He faced charges of both robbery and homicide. However, the homicide charge was based solely on statements made by three other defendants involved in the robbery, who pleaded guilty and provided testimony in exchange for reduced sentences.

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East Hartford Juvenile Defense AttorneyRecently, people throughout the United States were shocked by a school shooting that took place in Virginia. The incident occurred when a six-year-old child brought a gun to school and shot and wounded his teacher. This case has raised questions about whether the child could potentially face criminal charges, and this has in turn led to an examination of the laws that determine when children can face criminal prosecution.

Age of Criminal Responsibility

Most countries have laws that set a minimum age at which a person can be prosecuted on criminal charges. The average age of criminal responsibility is 14, and most countries also prohibit prosecutors from pursuing charges against children under the age of 7. However, the United States has no federal law that sets a minimum age for criminal prosecution. These issues are addressed at the state level, and currently, 24 states, including Virginia have no minimum age of criminal responsibility. Other states have set minimum ages for prosecution ranging from 7 to 13 years old.

Criminal justice advocates have sought to address this issue and raise the age at which children can be held criminally responsible for their actions. They have noted that because children's brains are still developing, they may not fully understand the consequences of certain actions, and implementing harsh penalties can cause a great deal of emotional harm that may impede their development. Children who face criminal punishment are more likely to commit additional criminal offenses in the future, and they are less likely to complete their education and be able to find employment after reaching adulthood.

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East Hartford Crimes Against Children LawyerPeople who are arrested or convicted of sexual offenses, such as sexual assault or crimes against children, often face significant difficulties. In addition to criminal penalties that may include long periods of incarceration and large fines, those who are convicted of sex crimes will usually be required to register as sex offenders. This can impose limitations on where they can live, and it may make it difficult or impossible to find employment. Unfortunately, many people encounter confusion about which laws apply to them, including their requirements when moving to a different state. These issues have been illustrated in an ongoing court case in Indiana involving six defendants who have argued that the state's sex offender registration law treats them unfairly.

Issues Related to the Indiana Sex Offender Registration Act

The state of Indiana enacted the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) in 1994, and in addition to requiring people convicted of sex crimes in the state to register as sex offenders, it also requires people convicted of these offenses in other states to register in Indiana if they will live or work in the state. However, the law placed additional requirements on people from other states; namely, those who were convicted of sex offenses or required to register as sex offenders in other states are required to register as sex offenders in Indiana, even if they committed offenses prior to when SORA went into effect.

The defendants in the current court case have argued that this law treats them unfairly. As residents of other states, they have been subject to restrictions that did not apply to residents of Indiana. They have claimed that the requirement to register as sex offenders in Indiana has limited their right to travel between different states. They are also claiming that the law violates their equal protection rights, since the law did not exist when they originally committed offenses, and it imposes penalties that are more severe than those that would apply to Indiana residents.

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East Hartford Criminal Law AttorneyThe system of mass incarceration in the United States has led to large numbers of people being imprisoned. At any given time, around 500,000 people are being held in prisons throughout the United States, and more than 10 million people are admitted to prisons each year. As the prison system strains to house and provide care for all of these prisoners, criminal justice advocates are calling for other solutions, including alternatives to incarceration. Since 2020, the use of home confinement has increased, and it may provide a more cost-effective and humane solution that will improve public safety.

Home Confinement Under the CARES Act

In 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which allowed for the use of home confinement for federal prisoners who were at risk of serious illness due to the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. Home confinement was used for prisoners who were most vulnerable, including those who are elderly or who have significant health issues. This program has been very successful, giving many prisoners the opportunity to reintegrate into the community and remain safe from harm.

Remarkably, only a minuscule number of federal prisoners who were placed on home confinement under the CARES Act reoffended. Of around 11,000 people who were released during the height of the pandemic, only 17 were charged with new crimes. Almost all of these were minor drug offenses, and only one person committed a violent crime. In total, over 50,000 prisoners have been placed on home confinement since 2020, and many of them have been able to complete their sentences in this manner.

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East Hartford Crime Law AttorneyThe First Step Act (FSA) is a federal law that was passed in 2018, and it was meant to help federal prisoners re-enter society successfully after being released. Unfortunately, there have been problems with the implementation of the FSA, and many prisoners have been unable to fully make use of the programs that should be available to them and earn credits that allow them to be released early. Those who are facing criminal charges and those who have been convicted of federal offenses will need to understand how this law affects them and how they can take steps to demonstrate that they are eligible for early release. 

Issues Affecting Minimum Security Prisoners Under the FSA

Of the 150,000 people incarcerated in federal prisons in the United States, around 24,000, or 15 percent, are classified as minimum security prisoners. These prisoners should have been afforded rights under the FSA that would allow them to earn credits against their incarceration time and be released to home confinement or other forms of less restrictive custody. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many minimum security prisoners' ability to be released early.

Even though the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had a pandemic plan that should have allowed it to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks, it failed to properly implement this plan. During the height of the pandemic, many minimum security prisoners were placed in Special Housing Units, which are usually used to isolate prisoners as a form of discipline. They were also denied visitation and were unable to communicate with their family members, and they were unable to participate in programs that would allow them to earn credits that would allow for early release. While the CARES Act that was passed by Congress in 2020 allowed prisoners with health issues to serve sentences on home confinement, these provisions were not implemented consistently, and many prisoners were forced to remain in federal facilities even when they should have been able to be released early.

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