debtor, Hartford criminal defense lawyerDid you know that you could end up in jail if you cannot pay your bills? This does not even refer to court-imposed fines or court-ordered obligations like child support. You could find yourself in jail over private debts such as student loans, medical bills, and unpaid rent. Now, you may be wondering how this is possible considering that debtors’ prisons were outlawed in the United States nearly 200 years ago. The answer is that private companies have found a loophole in the laws of dozens of states that allows them to use the threat of incarceration to generate payment of outstanding debt—a practice that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says criminalizes poverty.

A Troubling Report

Technically, debtors’ prisons are illegal in the United States and have been since 1833. In recent years, however, private companies have begun “using the criminal justice system to punish debtors and terrorize them into paying, even when a debt is in dispute or when the debtor has no ability to pay,” says a new report from the ACLU. According to the report, tens of thousands of warrants are issued each year in relation to unpaid private debts, but it is impossible to determine the exact number because court records do not usually track this category of warrants.

The ACLU report indicates that the process usually works like this:

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Prohibition, Hartford criminal defense attorneyCalifornia was the first state in the U.S. to legalize the use of medical marijuana. In the two decades since, another 30 states have followed suit. Another 15 states have legalized medical cannabis products with limited THC content. In addition, nine states plus Washington, D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Recent opinion polls conducted by the Pew Research Center and Quinnipiac University show that public support for the legalization of recreational marijuana is now at an all-time high. Between 61 and 63 percent of American voters are reportedly in favor of legalizing recreational use for adults while just 33 to 37 percent are opposed. The main problem, however, is the prohibition of cannabis that still exists at the federal level, leading many to see parallels between the government’s approach to marijuana and the ban on alcohol that largely defined the 1920s.

A Look Back

By the end of the 19th century, a growing movement in the United States railed against the evils of alcohol. Led mostly by religious organizations, the effort blamed the problems of society—such as crime and poverty—on drinking and drunkenness. Anti-alcohol groups succeeded, at first, in getting local laws passed to limit the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. In 1920, the U.S. ratified the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which made it illegal to produce, transport, or sell liquor.

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sentencing, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyOver the last few years, there has been much debate regarding efforts in Connecticut to rethink how young adults should be treated in the realm of criminal law. Courts have long held that a person who is 18 years old or older should be fully responsible for his or her actions. Defendants under the age of 18 are typically granted considerations based on the idea that a minor’s brain is not yet fully developed.

In Connecticut, specifically, Governor Dannel P. Malloy has championed the idea of creating a separate court system for young adults up to age 23. Such a system would take able to take into account a defendant’s development and other factors when determining sentencing and the prospect of rehabilitation. Late last month, a ruling by a federal judge in Connecticut gave additional credibility to the concept of a young adult justice system by ordering a new sentencing hearing for a man convicted of committing murder at the age of 18.

A Violent History

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dual arrest, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyWhen the police respond to a report of a domestic disturbance, how they handle the situation is determined by a number of factors. Of course, the behavior of and allegations made by the parties involved will contribute to the officer’s decision on whether or not to make an arrest. The applicable laws of the state in question also matter and can vary widely from one state to the next.

In Connecticut, an officer is essentially required to make an arrest when responding to a domestic violence call if he or she has probable cause to believe that violent incident took place. Unfortunately, however, the wording of the law—which went into effect in 1987—has had the unintended consequence of raising the rate of dual arrests to more than double the national average. In recent weeks, victims’ advocate groups have renewed calls to amend the state’s laws so that victims will no longer need to fear being arrested when they call the police for help.

The Problem

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juvenile, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyAt the moment, there is just one prison in the entire state of Connecticut for juveniles who commit crimes that are not serious enough for the “adult” court system. That prison, however, is in the process of closing, leaving many wondering what will happen to the juveniles currently being held there and those who commit such offenses in the future.

Secure Facility

The Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown is a high-security correctional facility designed to hold the most troubled boys in the state’s juvenile justice system. The juvenile delinquents committed to the center have not necessarily committed the worst crimes—those offenders are typically transferred to a standard or adult criminal court and prison system, as necessary. Instead, the boys are essentially the most in need of careful supervision, as many are dealing the effects of physical trauma, mental illness, drug abuse, and dysfunctional families.

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