Connecticut criminal defense attorney for informant testimonyThe United States is a unique country in many ways. When it comes to the U.S. legal system, defendants are given quite a few inherent freedoms that many other countries do not provide. The way the legal system is set up here in our country, law enforcement officials can give individuals clemency for certain crimes in exchange for information. For example, police can choose to let a person walk free if they can offer up information about a crime committed by someone else. Prosecutors have the ability to recommend a lesser sentence or even drop criminal charges altogether if a defendant cooperates. One of the best examples of this is the practice of allowing prison inmates to testify against other inmates in exchange for various benefits.

The Issue With Jailhouse Informants

Recently, the use of jailhouse informants has become a hot topic. This has come in part because of the availability of new DNA testing technology that has helped quite a few people be declared innocent of the crimes they were accused of committing. Many of the people who have been exonerated were convicted because of testimony from jailhouse informants, whose intentions are not always the best. In many cases, informants are offered certain benefits for providing testimony, such as a reduction in their own sentences.

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East Hartford criminal defense lawyer for state and federal chargesThe United States Constitution gives citizens dozens of rights that are indicative of the spirit and history of the country, such as the right to free speech, the right to peacefully protest, and the right to bear arms. These rights are contained in the first ten Amendments, called the Bill of Rights, and they are constantly being analyzed in different contexts by scholars, lawmakers, and the members of the U.S. Supreme Court. One of these rights is the protection against double jeopardy, or being tried for the same crime more than once. This has been an issue that has wedged its way into the Supreme Court more than once and that has held precedent for many years.

Understanding Dual Sovereignty and Double Jeopardy

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains a variety of protections and rights given to citizens concerning criminal trials. One of these protections is from what is known as “double jeopardy” or being tried for the same crime twice. Originally, the Fifth Amendment was only meant to apply to the federal government, but over the years, the Supreme Court has ruled that it also applies to state governments.

The issue that the Supreme Court has faced again and again is whether or not a person can be tried for the same instance of a crime in both state and federal courts. For many years, the Supreme Court has upheld that a person can, in fact, be tried in both state and federal courts for the same instance of a crime because the state government and federal government are technically two different jurisdictions or “sovereigns.” This is known as the dual sovereignty doctrine.

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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for marijuana crimesIn recent years, the recreational and medical use of marijuana has become legal in several states across the country. Currently, 33 states, including Connecticut, permit the medicinal use of marijuana, and 11 states and the District of Columbia allow the recreational use of marijuana for adults. Even just 10 years ago, police could use the “smell of marijuana” as a legitimate reason to search a citizen’s vehicle or person for evidence which could be used to pursue charges for drug possession or DUI. However, times have changed, and some courts have found that this is not an adequate reason to conduct a search.

Is Marijuana Odor Considered Evidence?

Now that more than half of the states have legalized marijuana in some way, lawmakers and law enforcement officials have run into an issue of constitutionality when it comes to using the smell of marijuana as probable cause to search a vehicle or a person. In the minority of states that have not legalized marijuana, a police officer who believes they smell pot has probable cause to search a vehicle in most cases. In other states, however, the line has become blurred, because the smell of pot does not necessarily point to a crime.

“Pot Smell” and the Fourth Amendment

The “automobile exception” has long been recognized by the Supreme Court as an exception to the Fourth Amendment, which states that citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant. In many cases, a vehicle may be searched without the need to obtain a warrant if an officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. Police have long used the smell of marijuana as an excuse to conduct vehicle searches, though it is now being reconsidered whether or not the supposed presence of this type of odor is enough to allow a warrantless search. Courts in many states, such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maryland, have ruled that marijuana odor no longer gives police the right to search a vehicle.

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Hartford criminal lawyer for cell phone evidenceIn today’s world, there are many technological advances that previous generations could not even dream of being possible. As the world of technology has advanced, so has the world of forensics. Advancements in technology have also allowed advancements in gathering evidence and processing that evidence for use in criminal cases. Cell phones are one such piece of technology that is used all over the world as a source of criminal evidence.

What Kind of Data Is Used as Evidence?

Cell phones -- especially smartphones -- gather, process, and store all kinds of data. From the text messages you send and receive, the photos you share, or the websites you visit, almost everything you do on your phone is stored and can be retrieved, even if you have deleted it. Some common types of data that can be retrieved from cell phones include:

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 Connecticut criminal law attorney for facial recognition evidenceSince the 1990s, facial recognition technology has become more and more common. What was once just wishful and futuristic thinking is now present in our everyday lives in the United States. Home security devices use facial recognition to identify whether or not a visitor is someone you know. Some airports have implemented facial recognition software at check-in terminals to confirm your identity when you fly. Perhaps the most disturbing use of facial recognition technology is when it is used by law enforcement officials in criminal cases.

Federal Agencies Use Facial Recognition Technology

According to The Washington Post, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been using various states’ driver’s license databases to access photos of millions of Americans without their knowledge or permission. The FBI has long had access to biometric data such as DNA and fingerprints -- but that data was taken from criminal suspects. The majority of the estimated 640 million photos the FBI has access to are of Americans who have never been charged with a crime. Facial recognition searches have become a routine investigative tool by the FBI, but many have argued against the effectiveness of this relatively new technology.

Many Claim Facial Recognition Is Too Inaccurate to Be Used in Law Enforcement

Aside from the privacy concerns that many Americans and lawmakers have, there have also been concerns about the accuracy of facial recognition software in correctly identifying a person. The California American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conducted a study in which photos of the 120 members of the state legislature were run through facial recognition software marketed to law enforcement agencies. Results from the study concluded that one out of every five lawmakers (26 people) were incorrectly matched with people in a database of arrest photos. Even more concerning was the fact that nearly half of those who were incorrectly identified were people of color.

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