connecticut crimnal defense lawyerCOVID-19 has affected the lives of everyone in the United States in a variety of ways. People have been forced to make adjustments in multiple areas of their lives, and many people and organizations are working to return to normalcy while dealing with ongoing health concerns. These issues have also affected the court system, and courts were closed for a significant amount of time in 2020 and 2021 to protect people’s safety. While in-person trials have resumed, ongoing issues related to the pandemic have affected court proceedings and jury verdicts. Those who are involved in criminal trials or civil litigation (including personal injury cases) can make sure these issues are addressed correctly by working with an experienced attorney.

Changes in Jury Makeup and Voting

The state of Connecticut has resumed jury trials as of June 1, 2021. To ensure that all participants in a trial, including jurors, judges, plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, attorneys, and court officials, will be safe, multiple protective measures have been implemented. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided to everyone who needs it. Courts will also provide face shields for witnesses, ensuring that jurors and attorneys will be able to observe their facial expressions as they provide testimony.

While courts have taken steps to protect people’s safety, the policies they are following during the pandemic and the ways people are responding to jury summons may affect the fairness of trials. In many cases, courts are excusing unvaccinated people from jury duty. Because men are less likely to be vaccinated than women, and vaccination rates are lower for minorities, this means that juries are less likely to be representative of the population as a whole.

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connecticut criminal defenseWhen a person is convicted of criminal charges, they will face certain penalties. Depending on the nature of the offense, the person’s previous criminal record, and other factors, they may be sentenced to time in prison, required to pay fines, or face certain restrictions during a period of probation. However, there are a variety of other collateral consequences that can affect those who have been convicted of crimes. A criminal record can make it difficult or impossible for a person to find employment, housing, or education. To address this issue, the state of Connecticut recently passed a “clean slate” law that will allow some convicts’ records to be cleared once they have completed their sentences.

Automatic Clearing of Records for Certain Crimes

Currently, convicts in Connecticut are able to clear their criminal records by applying for a pardon. Depending on their offense and whether any victims have an interest in the case, a person may be required to attend a hearing before the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The process of applying for a pardon can be complicated, and many convicts struggle to clear their records and move forward with their lives.

Under the new clean slate law, certain types of criminal convictions will be automatically cleared from a person’s record after a certain amount of time has passed. Misdemeanor offenses will be expunged after seven years have passed since the date of the conviction. Class D and E felonies or unclassified felonies may be expunged after 10 years, as long as a person’s prison sentence was no more than five years. However, automatic expungement will not be available for those convicted of offenses involving family violence or sex crimes (including both violent and non-violent offenses).

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connecticut criminal defense lawyerIn Connecticut and many other states, people who have been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) or related offenses such as vehicular manslaughter are required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in their vehicle. This device requires a driver to give a breath sample, and it will prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is above a certain level. These devices can be inconvenient for drivers, but many people believe that they are necessary to ensure that drivers who have violated drunk driving laws in the past will protect others’ safety. However, a new law may require that similar devices be used in many more vehicles, even for drivers with a clean driving record.

Infrastructure Bill Contains Provisions for Drunk Driving Monitoring Systems in New Vehicles

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is currently being considered in the U.S. Congress, includes provisions that would require all passenger vehicles manufactured after 2027 to be equipped with “advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology.” This is one of several types of automotive safety technology that the bill would mandate, and others include automatic braking and crash avoidance systems and systems meant to prevent leaving children unattended in hot cars.

There are several concerns about how drunk driving prevention technology would work in practice. Unlike the IIDs that are required to be used by those who have been convicted of DUI, the technology mandated in the bill would be passive, meaning that it would monitor a person’s BAC and performance without the need for the driver to take any additional actions. Some detection systems that are currently being developed monitor alcohol levels in a driver’s breath by measuring the air in a vehicle’s cabin, while others use touch sensors to measure blood alcohol levels when a driver presses a button to start the vehicle. While these devices may work in theory, it remains to be seen whether they will reliably prevent drunk driving or whether they may lead to false positives that would prevent a person from driving a vehicle even when sober.

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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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