hartford criminal defense lawyerMost people are aware of the potential consequences that they may face if they are accused of violating the law. A conviction on criminal charges can result in significant fines, jail time, probation, or other penalties, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding a case. However, many people do not realize that law enforcement officials may also seize people’s money or property, and this is sometimes done without a person ever being accused of or charged with a crime.

Understanding Civil Asset Forfeiture

Federal and state laws allow police officers or other law enforcement officials to seize assets that they believe are connected to a crime, including cash, vehicles, homes, or other property. If police officers have a “reasonable” belief that these assets were obtained through the proceeds of a crime, were used to further criminal activity, or were otherwise related to an alleged violation of the law, these assets can be confiscated. However, in many cases, these forfeitures occur even when a person is never officially charged with a criminal offense.

While officials often claim that civil asset forfeiture is used against drug dealers or others who are involved in serious crimes, they are much more likely to target low-income people and those who do not have the financial resources to challenge this type of seizure. One investigation found that the average amount seized by law enforcement is $1,276. In many cases, police departments keep the money or property seized through civil asset forfeiture for their own use, giving officers the incentive to confiscate cash or other valuable property whenever possible. 


Hartford larceny defense attorneyThere are many situations in which an action could legally be considered theft. In the state of Connecticut, theft is typically referred to as larceny, and all of the laws pertaining to theft use this term. Connecticut statutes state that larceny occurs when a person takes, obtains, or withholds property from its owner with the intent of permanently depriving the owner of the property. Larceny in Connecticut includes actions such as embezzlement, extortion, theft of services, shoplifting, and even receiving stolen property. Certain actions are charged in Connecticut as misdemeanor larceny crimes, but charges can also be elevated to felony larceny charges, depending on the circumstances surrounding the situation.

Larceny in the Third Degree

The first level of felony larceny charges, larceny in the third degree, occurs when a person commits larceny and the property:

  • Is a motor vehicle worth less than $10,000;
  • Is worth between $2,000 and $9,999;
  • Is a public record, writing, or instrument; or
  • Is a sample, culture, record, or document that contains proprietary information.

Third-degree larceny is a Class D felony, which means it carries up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.


Connecticut criminal defense attorney for digital evidenceThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that all citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government without a warrant. This provides protection against unfair tactics by prosecutors when a person is facing criminal charges. However, in the 21st century, the increased use of digital media has resulted in a slew of complexities in criminal cases. The Fourth Amendment was written to protect the privacy of American citizens, but what happens when your private digital files are no longer private to only you? In some cases, the “private search doctrine” may apply.

What Is the Private Search Doctrine?

Using the private search doctrine, once a private party (who is not involved with the government) has already done an initial search, the government can repeat that search without infringing upon the property owner’s individual Fourth Amendment rights. Basically, the private search doctrine allows the government to perform a search that is not technically a search in the Constitutional sense.

A Recent North Carolina Case Sparks Controversy

In 2014, a North Carolina woman was looking for a photograph on her boyfriend’s USB thumb drive. While she was clicking through folders and subfolders on the drive, she came across a partially-nude photo of her nine-year-old granddaughter. Upset, she stopped her search and informed her daughter of the photo. The pair took the thumb drive to the police station, where a detective began to look through the folders to find the photo the woman was referring to. While the detective was looking, he saw other photos that he thought might be child pornography. Once he found the photo of the woman’s granddaughter, he stopped his search and obtained a warrant to search the thumb drive for photos of child pornography.


Connecticut DUI defense attorneyIn all 50 states, it is illegal to drive while you are under the influence of alcohol. If you have a blood alcohol content of more than .08 percent, you can be charged with DUI. If you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, you may be asked to complete a chemical test to determine your BAC. This type of roadside breathalyzer test is used during a traffic stop to establish probable cause. After an arrest, you will be taken to the police station, where there is more accurate equipment that can establish a BAC that will hold up in court. In certain cases, however, a breath test may not always be feasible. In these cases, a urine or blood test may be used. Most of the time, a warrant must be issued before an officer can take a blood sample, though the Supreme Court recently upheld a decision which found that a warrant may not be necessary in some cases.

Supreme Court Rules 5-4 in Favor of Warrantless Blood Tests

Warrantless BAC tests have been the subject of two Supreme Court decisions in recent years. It has been established that officers can conduct warrantless BAC tests if the case has exigent circumstances and that an officer can conduct a warrantless breath test as long as there is probable cause to arrest the driver. In the most recent decision, the Supreme Court examined what to do when a driver is unconscious and cannot submit to a breath test. The supreme court ruled 5-4 that in certain specific situations, it is permissible to administer a blood test without a warrant.

Supreme Court Rules Warrantless Blood Tests Are Not a Violation of the Fourth Amendment

The Justices in favor of this ruling stated that it is not unreasonable for a police officer to administer a blood test to determine a driver’s BAC in cases where the driver is unconscious. If the driver is unconscious and unable to submit to a breath test, the only other way to enforce DUI laws is to administer a blood test. The Justices also stated that an unconscious driver is almost always taken to a hospital, where his or her blood would typically be drawn for other purposes anyways. In addition, they stated that if the unconscious person is part of an accident, the officer’s other duties would prevent him or her from going through the steps needed to obtain a warrant in a timely manner.


DNA, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyUnder the current law in Connecticut, anyone who is convicted of a felony is required to provide a sample of his or her DNA to be cataloged in the state’s DNA database. In 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court even ruled that prison and law enforcement officials were permitted to use reasonable force to obtain the DNA sample when a convict refuses to cooperate.

While there has been debate over whether the collection of such samples constitutes a violation of privacy, the law and the Supreme Court ruling only apply to individuals who have already been convicted of a serious crime. Meanwhile, reports indicate that law enforcement officials in Connecticut are asking young men and women—including juveniles—to give DNA samples without their parents’ consent or knowledge.

A Cause for Worry

Earlier this month, lawmakers in California passed legislation that makes it illegal for police officers to obtain DNA from a minor without either permission from the minor’s parent or guardian or a court order. The law was widely regarded as a response to allegations of the police in San Diego targeting young African-Americans for DNA collection. Advocates are pushing for similar laws in other states as well.

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