hartford criminal defense lawyerThe Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives recently ended the 2021 legislative session, and multiple new laws were passed that will affect criminal cases in the state. While advocates for criminal justice reform have praised some of the changes that were made, they have identified several issues that they believe still need to be addressed. By working with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney, those who are facing criminal charges can ensure that the state’s laws will be applied correctly in their case.

New Laws Related to Drug Crimes, Domestic Violence, and Criminal Records

The laws passed by the Connecticut legislature address issues such as:

  • Clean slate - Convictions for non-violent misdemeanors and certain types of lower-level felonies will be erased from a person’s criminal record if they are not convicted of any other crimes for seven or 10 years after completing their sentence.

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hartford criminal defense lawyerIn the United States, people expect the legal system to be open and honest. Legal documents filed in court and the decisions made in legal proceedings are made available to the public, providing people with an understanding of their rights and how the laws are applied in specific situations. However, one of the most important courts in the U.S. operates under a veil of secrecy. Even though its decisions affect the types of surveillance that law enforcement officials can use in criminal cases, these decisions are not always made available to the public. Criminal justice advocates have raised concerns about how this secrecy affects the civil liberties of people in the United States.

Decisions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was created in 1978, and it was given the power to oversee the types of surveillance conducted by officials in matters related to national security. While the court initially had a narrow focus, authorizing a few hundred wiretaps each year, its powers were expanded significantly following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

This expanded role occurred at the same time that new forms of technology became available that allowed for mass surveillance of millions of people. As government officials have begun to collect data about people’s communications and activities, the court has authorized a number of programs that have affected people’s privacy rights. The FISC has allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect records of phone calls made within the United States and between the U.S. and other countries, including details about who made calls, when calls were made, and how long they lasted. It has also allowed government agencies to scan people’s emails and collect information about messages people have sent online. In many cases, these forms of surveillance have been authorized without the need to show probable cause or suspicion of criminal activity.

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Hartford, CT criminal defense lawyer for clearing criminal recordsIt is well-understood that committing a crime can lead to multiple types of consequences. However, many people are not fully aware of the long-term effects of being convicted on criminal charges. Even after a person has served their sentence, they will have a criminal record that will show up in background checks, which can affect their ability to obtain employment, secure housing, or pursue education. To address this issue and help people convicted of crimes better reintegrate into society, the Connecticut state Senate recently passed a “Clean Slate” bill.

Potential Changes in the Clean Slate Bill

The bill passed by the Senate would automatically erase certain types of criminal convictions from a person’s record after they have successfully completed their sentence and have not committed any crimes for a certain number of years. Misdemeanor convictions may be erased seven years after the date of conviction, and Class D or Class E felony convictions may be erased after 10 to 15 years.

Supporters of the bill believe that it strikes a balance between ensuring that criminals are punished for their crimes and allowing people who have served their debt to society to avoid ongoing collateral consequences. For far too many people, a criminal conviction can function as a life sentence, even for relatively minor offenses. Those who are unable to find employment because of a criminal record are likely to commit further crimes. Clearing criminal records after the proper amount of time has passed will ultimately increase public safety.

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Connecticut criminal law attorney for probation violationsThe issue of mass incarceration has received a great deal of attention in recent years. However, probation is another aspect of the criminal justice system that affects even more people than incarceration, and advocates for criminal justice reform believe that it is used far too often and imposes unnecessary restrictions that affect people’s rights. Because of this, many are calling for changes to laws and policies that would increase protections for people who are involved in criminal cases and help them receive the treatment and rehabilitation they need.

Problems With Probation

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that in 2018, 3.54 million people in the United States were serving a sentence of probation, while 1.6 million people were incarcerated in jails and prisons. This illustrates how often sentences of probation are issued in criminal cases. In fact, probation is often the default sentence imposed when defendants make plea bargains with prosecutors and agree to plead guilty in order to receive lesser charges.

While probation is often seen as an alternative to prison that allows a defendant to receive rehabilitation while remaining integrated into the community, it can impose a number of restrictions that affect people’s rights. Those on probation are subject to supervision, monitoring, and other forms of control, and they are often required to follow multiple types of arbitrary conditions that are unrelated to their criminal charges. 

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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for illegal search and seizureEven though nearly everyone carries a cell phone with them at all times, it has become more and more clear in recent years that this practice exposes a great deal of our personal information. For those who may potentially face criminal charges, police officers or other law enforcement officials may be able to access location data and other information that can be used as evidence. This was made clear following the riots that took place in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. While investigating and prosecuting those who were involved in these incidents, the FBI has accessed multiple different types of personal data. This has raised questions about what types of information are available to law enforcement officials and whether the collection of this data violates people’s constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure.

Location and GPS Data and Search Warrants

Typically, if law enforcement officials wish to access an individual person’s data, such as the calls they have made or the text messages they have sent, they are required to obtain a search warrant. Even if police officers and federal officials cannot access a person’s phone, they may use a variety of other methods to collect data that can provide them with information about people’s location and communications. In some cases, they may request “tower dumps” from cell phone companies to track people’s locations by identifying everyone who connected to a certain cell tower at a certain date and time.

As the use of tower dumps has become more well-known, some courts have found that police must obtain warrants before accessing this type of cell-site location information (CSLI). However, officials may be able to use other methods to access a person’s data, including GPS location data and personal information gathered by other apps. 

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