seizure, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyWhen a person is convicted of committing a crime, it is understandable that the government might have interest in seizing proceeds generated by the commission of that crime. For example, if a drug dealer is arrested and convicted, the money he or she made selling drugs can reasonably be seized and kept by law enforcement and other state agencies—with proper reporting, of course. It also reasonable for the state to seize and keep other property that may have been used in the commission of the crime. A good example might be the computer used by a convicted scammer to defraud unsuspecting victims.

For many years, state and federal government agencies had wide discretion to seize assets that were allegedly linked to criminal activity. The problem, however, was that the agencies could—in many cases—keep the assets even if the assets’ owner was never convicted or even charged. The process for getting seized property back was often difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, and many owners simply gave up.

To combat this issue, some states—including Connecticut—passed legislation that prohibits asset seizure and forfeiture without an associated criminal conviction. At the same time, however, new initiatives by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) seem to be encouraging a resurgence of the old problem.

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reform, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyIt has been five years since the Connecticut legislature added 17-year-old criminal defendants to the state’s juvenile court system. When the reform was first enacted, many feared that the change would overwhelm the juvenile courts and have virtually no effect on the likelihood of juveniles returning to criminal activity in the future. While the doomsday predictions have largely proven to be inaccurate, there is still concern among law enforcement and prosecutors that restrictions on detaining juvenile suspects and transfers to adult court have made their jobs more difficult and placed the public at risk.

The debate was reignited by Governor Dannel Malloy’s continued efforts to create an extension of the juvenile court system that would be used for most defendants up to 20 years old. For the last two years, Governor Malloy has touted his “Second Chance Society” initiatives, citing emerging research on brain development in adolescents and young adults.

A Wave of Teen Crime

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When a person is arrested in a home or an apartment, it is understandable for the law enforcement officers making the arrest to conductive a protective sweep of the residence to ensure that nobody is hiding or waiting to attack the officers. While protective sweeps are considered a type of search under the Fourth Amendment, they are often permitted without a warrant.

Sometimes, however, the police overstep their bounds and use such sweeps as a justification to conduct evidentiary searches. When evidence is uncovered as the result of such a search, it may be considered tainted and the court may rule that the evidence is inadmissible. A recent ruling by a federal court in Connecticut highlights the importance of limiting the scope of protective sweeps.

Sweep Following an Arrest

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stingray, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyAnother court has issued a ruling that effectively tells police, “Just because you are able to track people does not mean that you are allowed to do so.” The decision was handed down by an appeals court in Washington D.C.—the District’s equivalent of a state appellate court—and addressed the use of cell-site simulator devices. The devices are more commonly known by the brand name StingRay and allow law enforcement to locate a cell phone by sending and receiving signals that imitate the performance of a cell tower. The ruling is the latest in a string of similar court decisions that have held the use of StingRays without a warrant to be a violation of a suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights in most cases.

Great Power

Cell-site simulators give the police the ability to track a cell phone and, sometimes, intercept phone calls and text messages. The problem, however, is that the simulators collect the same information from any other phone in the vicinity. As a result, the police can, in effect, track any cell phone without a person’s knowledge or consent. Civil liberty advocates say that such capabilities must be limited by requiring a warrant, as tracking a person’s cell phone without approval from the court constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.

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suicide, Connecticut criminal defense lawyerThroughout the United States, suicide is a serious yet under-discussed problem. Each year, more than 40,000 Americans succeed in taking their own lives, with countless more making one or more attempts. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for individuals between 15 and 34—only accidents claim more lives. For friends and family members of a suicide victim, the situation can be traumatic and life-changing, as they may feel like they have failed their loved one. Recently, however, a Massachusetts court ruled that a young woman who encouraged her boyfriend to kill himself must now serve at least 15 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

A Tragic Set of Facts

Three years ago, an 18-year-old man Massachusetts man committed suicide by filling his pickup truck cab with carbon monoxide in a store parking lot. As officials investigated the death, they found that the man’s girlfriend—a 17-year-old young woman—had been sending him messages via text and social media encouraging him to go through with his suicide plan. According to reports and court documents, the teen even allegedly told the young man to “get back in” when he got scared and got out of his carbon monoxide-filled truck.

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