Hartford, CT criminal lawyer for illegal search and seizureWhile modern technology has improved people’s lives in many ways, it has also created concerns about privacy. Most people carry cell phones or other electronic devices with them everywhere they go, and the use of apps that track their location can leave a data trail that provides a great deal of information about their activities and behavior. In some cases, this data may be accessed by law enforcement officials who are looking to identify criminal suspects. Recently, the use of “geofence warrants” has come under scrutiny, and criminal defense attorneys and privacy advocates are fighting back against the improper collection of data during criminal investigations.

What Are Geofence Warrants?

“Geofencing” refers to drawing a boundary around a certain geographic area and identifying people within that area who have used electronic devices. When people use apps such as Google Maps, their location history is saved, and this data may be used to identify them at a later date. 

Over the past several years, law enforcement officials have begun issuing warrants to obtain location data for people who were in a certain area at the time that criminal activity allegedly occurred. Google has reported that warrants for this type of data increased by 1,500% between 2017 and 2018 and by another 500% between 2018 and 2019. As of the end of 2109, the company was receiving as many as 180 law-enforcement-related requests for information each week.

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Hartford criminal law attorney for jury trialsThe coronavirus pandemic has affected the legal system in many ways, and some defendants have been left in limbo as they await a trial. To protect public safety, the courts in Connecticut have significantly reduced their capacity, and no criminal jury trials have been held in the state since March of 2020. While courts have taken protective measures and planned to begin holding trials, continued concerns about COVID-19 infections have delayed proceedings, and multiple cases involving court employees who have been infected have led some to call for the closure of courts for the time being. Because of this, many criminal defense attorneys are concerned about how this ongoing situation will affect the rights of defendants.

Delays in Trials Due to Difficulty Finding Jurors

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that those in the United States who are facing criminal charges have the right to a speedy, public trial before an impartial jury. Postponing criminal trials indefinitely would violate the rights of defendants, so courts have been working to determine how to resume these trials while still protecting the safety of everyone involved, including defendants, judges, attorneys, jurors, witnesses, and others who would be present in court.

Courts have taken steps to protect the safety of those who would be present during trials. These include requiring masks for everyone involved in a trial and following social distancing guidelines, as well as installing equipment to circulate clean air into courtrooms. However, the primary issue that is delaying trials is the difficulty of finding people who are willing to serve as jurors. Many people who have been contacted for jury service have not responded to summons, or they have asked to be excused because of concerns that they or their family members could be at risk of COVID-19 infections.

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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for police brutalityThe issue of police brutality and other forms of misconduct by police officers has been at the forefront of public debate over the past decade. These concerns have become even more prevalent in 2020 due to multiple incidents in which criminal suspects were killed by the police, sparking nationwide protests. Along with raising concerns about racial discrimination and the use of excessive force, advocates for criminal justice reform have noted that in many cases, incidents involving harm to suspects occur because police officers are ill-equipped to address emergency calls involving people who suffer from mental illnesses.

High Fatality Rates in Police Calls Involving Mental Illness

A number of recent studies have looked at cases in which police officers throughout the United States responded to situations involving mental health concerns, and they found some troubling results. Around one fourth of the cases in which a person was killed in an encounter with police officers occurred in situations where officers were responding to reports of “disruptive behavior” related to mental illness or substance abuse. In addition, people with untreated mental health issues are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other civilians, and police shootings that result in the death of a person with mental illness are 39% more likely to occur in small or mid-sized towns rather than large cities.

Police officers are trained to respond to potential threats, and they are authorized to use deadly force when they fear for their lives. Because of this, they may not be properly equipped to deal with those who are suffering from mental illness. If a person behaves erratically or unexpectedly, police officers are more likely to respond with force rather than attempting to deescalate the situation. 

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Hartford criminal law attorney for pardons and expungementRacial inequality is one of the many issues that have been on people’s minds in 2020. Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others not only because of these unnecessary deaths, but because the criminal justice system is unfairly biased against people of color. Black people are arrested, charged, and convicted of crimes at much higher rates than white people, and this has led to our current system of mass incarceration.

Even if a person is not convicted of a felony or does not end up in jail, criminal charges can have far-reaching effects on their lives. While Connecticut passed a “ban the box” law in 2017 that prohibits prospective employers from asking about a person’s criminal arrests, charges, or convictions on an application, background checks may still be performed during the hiring process, making it more difficult for those with a criminal record to find employment. A criminal record can also affect a person’s ability to find housing, pursue educational opportunities, or participate in children’s school activities.

All of this adds up to limited opportunities and ongoing problems for people of color who become involved in the criminal justice system. While white people are often able to move on from their past mistakes, Black or Hispanic people and other minorities usually do not have the same luxury, and they can end up paying the price for years after they are arrested or convicted. Because of this, advocates for criminal justice reform believe that more pardons should be issued to clear the criminal records of those who have completed their sentences.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney false confession

For decades, American citizens have expressed various concerns about the nation’s police force over things such as the disproportionate use of violence against people of color and allegations of officers shooting unarmed suspects. According to the latest information from the Washington Post, there are approximately 5,624 people who have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since 2015, on average about 1,000 each year. Because of that, we are now seeing many police stations across the country implementing new de-escalation and diversity training for officers. However, another widespread and concerning issue that has not been addressed in the same manner is officers who coerce or solicit false confessions from suspects of a crime.

False Confessions Are Not Uncommon

According to The Innocence Project, 375 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence for crimes that they did not commit. Of those cases, 102 cases or 27 percent were wrongfully convicted because of false confessions. Other sources have estimated that nearly $450 million has been paid out by state governments to defendants in false confession exoneration cases. 

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