East Hartford criminal defense attorneysThere is little question that 2020 has been difficult on all of us. However, certain segments of the population have been disproportionately affected, including communities of color, according to a prominent group of business professionals. With this in mind, the group—called the Business Roundtable—issued a series of recommendations earlier this week regarding both corporate and public policies, including many related to criminal justice, to improve racial justice and equity moving forward from the recession, COVID-19 pandemic, and police violence protests of 2020.

The Business Roundtable is an organization that consists solely of chief executive officers of major American companies. Together, the represented companies employ more than 15 million workers and report over $7 trillion in yearly revenues. The CEOs that comprise the Business Roundtable are from all 50 states, and they work with communities, policymakers, and workers “to build a better future for the nation and its people.”

A Multi-Faceted Agenda

The recommendations that were released this week addressed six main areas of concern: education, employment, finance, housing, health, and the U.S. justice system. The justice system recommendations are largely focused on offering second chances to individuals looking to improve their lives despite having a criminal record. Some highlights of the recommendations include:

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney trial penalty

Being charged with any type of crime in the state of Connecticut can be a scary and anxiety-ridden experience for many people, especially if this is your first time being involved in the criminal justice system. Many people have an idea in their head of how the process works from watching movies and television shows, but the actual criminal prosecution process is much different. In fact, most cases involving criminal charges do not even go to trial. Many times, prosecutors will end up offering the defendant a plea agreement, which would require a guilty plea in exchange for a lesser sentence than they would receive if they dispute the charges. However, this has created a new issue, dubbed the trial penalty.

Understanding Trial Penalties

If you are formally charged with a crime, you will then have the option of pleading guilty or not guilty. A majority of the time, a “not guilty” plea will result in the prosecutor offering you a plea deal, which is an agreement that typically requires you to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence than what you would likely receive if you proceeded to trial. The difference between the sentences is often staggering, too, forcing defendants to take deals for fear of risking longer sentences.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been felt by nearly every single person living in the United States at one point since the start of it all back in March. Even if you never actually got the coronavirus yourself, you likely had to alter your usual routine in some way because of the pandemic. For a length of time, Connecticut’s judicial system was running on minimum operations with the majority of courthouses closed to the general public to adhere to the Governor’s statewide shutdown order. As the courthouses have begun to reopen and the judicial system has begun to increase its caseload, many people are wondering when and how criminal jury trials will proceed. In many jurisdictions, cases that do not involve juries, such as divorces and other civil cases, have been successfully settled using virtual means. Some have wondered if that is paving the way for the inevitable: virtual criminal jury trials.

Issues with Virtual Criminal Jury Trials

Many of a courthouse’s day-to-day operations are not conducive to a post-pandemic world -- at least not yet. Now that the majority of Connecticut’s courthouses are open for staff and visitors, one of the only things that officials are scrambling to figure out is what to do about criminal jury trials. The possibility of virtual criminal jury trials taking place in Connecticut is becoming increasingly larger with each passing day of the pandemic. It is clear that we have the technology and the capability of conducting virtual jury trials, but virtual jury trials come with issues and downfalls of their own, such as:

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, people across the country have been advocating for the release of some of the inmates in the prisons and jails across the country who are either unable to post bail or who do not pose a risk to the community or who have been incarcerated for low-level offenses. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads easily through respiratory droplets when people are in close contact with one another. Prison conditions make this an ideal environment for COVID-19 to run rampant among populations, making it a concern for many. According to the Marshall Project, there have been more than 102,000 COVID-19 cases among the prison population as of August 18. The pandemic affected every aspect of life, but it affected prison systems exceptionally so, with issues reaching into the Connecticut Department of Corrections.

Mental Health Services Have Suffered

One of the biggest issues that the prison system has faced during the pandemic has been figuring out how to manage the mental health needs of the current and incoming inmates while maintaining safety measures. Throughout the pandemic, mental health services available to inmates have been limited and routine elective outpatient psychotherapy was suspended for most inmates.

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East Hartford, CT criminal law attorney search warrant

In today’s society, cell phones are commonplace when just 20 years ago, they were considered a luxury item. Now, cell phones have a plethora of uses other than just being for making phone calls. Think about what you use your cell phone every day. Many people use their smartphones to navigate from place to place, access the Internet, save photos and contacts, set calendars and schedules, and communicate with friends and family. All of that information is stored on your phone and can be viewed by mostly anyone who has access to the phone -- even police. In recent years, cell phones have become more valuable as evidence for law enforcement officers investigating a crime. However, some police professionals have run into opposition when attempting to retrieve evidence from password-protected phones. 

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules in Favor

Recently, such an issue made its way to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where the court ruled that a search warrant can indeed require a defendant to reveal his or her passcode to unlock his or her phone for law enforcement officers to retrieve evidence. The court ruled 4-3 that no existing state or federal laws provided enough protections for a passcode. This decision came from a case involving a man who claimed it was unconstitutional to force him to provide his passcode to police during their investigation into the man’s alleged involvement with aiding another man charged with drug trafficking.

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