Connecticut criminal defense attorneyOver the last few years, the issue of excessive force by police officers has become one of national focus and attention. In many circles, the phrase “police brutality” is used instead of “excessive force.” Following several high-profile situations caught on camera in which criminal suspects died in interactions with the police, lawmakers in Connecticut decided it was time to take definitive action.

On October 1, 2020, a series of new laws took effect throughout the state. These new statutes have been referred to in reports as “police accountability laws” because they address various types of behaviors by police officers. One of the new laws directly pertains to the use of excessive force by the police and the duty of officers to intervene when they witness the use of excessive force.  

Connecticut Police Academy Issues Guidance Memo

A week before the new laws went into effect, Karen Boisvert, the Administrator of the Connecticut Police Academy, issued a general notice to law enforcement officers across the state. The notice was addressed to police chiefs, training officers, protective services agencies, and resident troopers. The guidance notice summarized the portion of the statute that pertains to an officer’s use of force and laid out the expectations for all officers.

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East Hartford criminal defense attorneysWhen the police have reasons to believe that a person may have been involved with a crime, it is not uncommon for an officer to initiate a traffic stop in order for the officer to investigate a little closer. Court interpretations of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have held that traffic stops must be based on probable cause. This generally means that the officer must have seen the driver break a traffic law or observed indications that the driver was drunk, for example. But, what happens when once the driver is stopped? Can officers just decide to search the car to look for drugs, weapons, or other illegal items?

Probable Cause and Consent

Under the Fourth Amendment, courts have long required police officers to establish separate probable cause to justify a search of the vehicle during the traffic stop. In this context, “separate” probable cause means that the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the vehicle contains illegal items or evidence of criminal activity that is unrelated to the traffic violation for which the driver was stopped. Basic suspicion, including the driver’s reputation in the community or the time and location of the stop, is not usually sufficient to establish probable cause. Information from a tip, however, or the smell of drugs coming from the car could provide the probable cause the officer needs to conduct a search.

With all of this having been said, one of the most common ways for officers to get around the need for probable cause is to ask for the driver’s consent to search the vehicle. In many cases, the officer will ask directly, “Do you mind if I search your car? You don’t have anything to hide, right?” Other times, the officer may be more subtle, saying something to the effect of, “I’m sure it will amount to nothing, but you don’t mind if I have a quick look, do you?” If the driver gives his or her consent, the probable cause requirement no longer applies.

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Connecticut criminal defense lawyer for immigrationFor years, illegal and undocumented immigration has been a point of contention in American politics. Many people have argued over the rights that undocumented immigrants should or should not have. In 2013, Connecticut passed what is known as the Trust Act, which elaborated on how and when local law enforcement officials can assist federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents when they request help completing deportations. Recently, Connecticut passed two new bills, each amending the Trust Act to provide further protections to undocumented immigrants. For immigrants who are facing criminal charges, it is important to understand how these changes to the law will affect their rights.

Exceptions for Civil Detainers at Forefront of Debate

A civil detainer is an order from immigration officials requesting local law enforcement to comply with ICE to detain an immigrant. Civil detainers are orders that have not been reviewed by a U.S. District Court judge or magistrate or a Connecticut Superior Court judge, meaning they carry no legal obligation for a law enforcement official to arrest someone. The Trust Act of 2013 prohibited law enforcement officials from arresting or detaining immigrants solely based on a civil detainer -- with the exception of seven different situations. These situations included if the immigrant had been convicted of a felony, if they are subject to a final order of deportation, or if they present a risk to public safety.

Changes to the Act

The Trust Act of 2013 still prohibits local law enforcement from detaining immigrants on the basis of a civil detainer, but the exceptions to this rule are now narrowed down to three. For a law enforcement official to arrest or detain an undocumented immigrant, the immigrant must be on a federal terrorist watch list, be convicted of a major felony, or have a judicial order against them. In addition, the bills also limit law enforcement from disclosing an immigrant’s confidential information to ICE in certain situations, and law enforcement officials are required to inform immigrants when ICE has requested their detention.

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Hartford gun crime defense attorneyFirearms have been a part of American history for as long as the United States has been a country. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically gives American people the right to own firearms, but with the invention of new weapon technologies, more laws are being enacted each year. Gun owners should be sure to understand how changing laws will affect them in order to avoid facing weapons charges.

The latest gun safety law was passed in both the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives this past month. The bill, dubbed “Ethan’s Law,” was named in memory of Ethan Song, a 15-year-old Guilford boy who accidentally shot himself to death with a firearm that was easily accessible while at a friend’s house

Bill Calls for Gun Storage Changes

The biggest change to Connecticut’s firearm laws is the way that firearms must be stored. Prior to the passage of Ethan’s Law, the criminal liability a person had when a child accessed their firearms only applied if the firearm was loaded, and the child was able to gain access to the weapon. Under the new bill, a person must keep firearms in a securely locked box or in another secure manner if a minor under the age of 18 is likely to gain access to the firearm -- regardless of whether or not the firearm is loaded.

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