Connecticut Criminal Law & Injury Blog

email, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyAttorney-client privilege is an important part of the American criminal justice system. Under this privilege, a defendant is supposed to be able to communicate freely with his or her lawyer without the attorney being forced to share what was said with prosecutors or law enforcement. The concept works, essentially as an extension of the Fifth Amendment’s right to be free from self-incrimination and the guarantee of due process, the Sixth Amendment’s right to an attorney, and the right to privacy promised by the Fourth and Ninth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In most situations, maintaining confidentiality under the attorney-client privilege is fairly straightforward. Prosecutors, law enforcement, and the government at large do not have the authority or the ability to record or request records of communications between criminal defendants and their lawyers. The situation changes dramatically, however, for those who are already in correctional facilities, including jails and prisons.

Emails Are Convenient but Monitored

A person who is incarcerated can communicate with his or her attorney in four basic ways. The prisoner can schedule an in-person visit or a phone call that is not monitored. Either of these two options could take several weeks to make happen, not to mention travel costs for the attorney. Traditional postal mail is a choice as well, but again, time may be a factor. Finally, the prisoner could send his or her attorney an email.

Prisoners in the federal prison system—presently totaling about 150,000 individuals—send and receive emails through a Bureau of Prisons system called the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System or TRULINCS. While TRULINCS is effective enough for communicating with family members or loved ones, the main problem with the system is that it is monitored, and communications are not treated as privileged. This means that prison officials—and by extension, prosecutors—have access to the content of any email sent or received on the system, including emails between inmates and their lawyers. There have been cases in which such emails have been used against the inmates in future court proceedings.

Following Up on Ignored Requests

In an effort to determine just how big the problem really is, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) filed requests for related records from the Bureau of Prisons and other government entities under the Freedom of Information Act. According to the NACDL, their requests have been ignored. As a result, the NACDL recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice asking the court to compel the release of records related to inmate email monitoring.

The NACDL says that electronic communication has largely replaced telephone communication and postal mail for the average person. For an inmate, email is likely to be the most reasonable way to communicate with the outside world, the suit claims. The lawsuit also points out that allowing inmates to have privileged email communications with their attorneys is more cost-effective for the public at large, as a majority of inmates are represented by tax-payer funded public defenders.

It is important to recognize that this lawsuit only applies to the release of government records. It does not seek policy changes or challenge an existing statute. Upon review of the records, however, future suits may be necessary to prompt changes to the rules.

Call a Hartford Defense Lawyer Today

If you or a member of your family is facing criminal charges, contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney to discuss your available options. We will review your case and ensure that your rights are protected at all times—including your right to privileged communication with your lawyer. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation today.

 

Sources:

https://scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1815&context=hlr

https://www.nacdl.org/FOIA-email-complaint-news-release/

https://www.law.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-10-18_NACDL-v-BOP_Complaint.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/nyregion/us-is-reading-inmates-email-sent-to-lawyers.html

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polygraph, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyFor many people, daytime television is a guilty pleasure—whether they stayed home sick from work or simply took a weekday off for once. During the midday lineup, there are several shows that rely heavily on certain types of tests. Some days, they focus on DNA testing and provide the source of the ubiquitous phrase, “You are NOT the father.” Other days, those same shows ask guests to take lie detector tests, also called polygraphs, to determine if they are being honest with their spouse or significant others.

When we watch shows like these, we realize that they are designed to entertain and keep viewers attention. Few of us actually care whether the test results were accurate. Polygraphs are often used in other applications, however, including in law enforcement and criminal cases, and some institutions continue to rely on them when scientific studies suggest they should not.

A Brief History

More than 100 years ago, a Harvard psychology student named William Marston observed an increase in his wife’s blood pressure when she “got mad or excited.” He surmised that he determine deception in her answers if he took her blood pressure while asking his wife questions. During World War I, he and others continued research on the subject, eventually adding breathing rate and skin conductance to blood pressure as points of observation. Eventually, the technique became known as a “polygraph” because it measured several things at once.

From the very beginning, polygraphs were held to be uncertain at best. Renowned mental health professionals could not reach an agreement on whether the physiological responses measured by the tests actually indicated deception. Blood pressure could spike for many reasons, for example, such as excitement or fear—not only because the subject was lying. Interpreting the results of a polygraph, therefore, is incredibly subjective and dependent on the conclusions of each individual examiner. Two different examiners could review the same polygraph results and reach very different conclusions about the subject’s level of deception.

Often Not Admissible in Court

These uncertainties have never been fully resolved. As a result, polygraphs are rarely been admissible as evidence in criminal proceedings. They are, however, sometimes used by law enforcement officials during criminal investigations. Some interrogation techniques include hooking the subject up to a polygraph and attempting to get the subject to confess by “confronting” him or her with the results of the test. There is no requirement for the police to be honest with criminal suspects, however, which means that interrogators often continue pushing for a confession even if the polygraph does not pick up on any deception by the subject.

In the rare instances that polygraph results are allowed in court, they are subject to intense scrutiny. The same is true for those who administer such tests and those who examine the results.

Contact a Hartford Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested and forced to take a polygraph during interrogation, contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense lawyer. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today. We will review your case and help you understand your options for protecting your future.

 

Sources:

https://www.wired.com/story/inside-polygraph-job-screening-black-mirror/

http://time.com/5407482/polygraph-machine-lie-detector-test-history/

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liability, Connecticut personal injury attorneysAccording to the calendar, winter is still two weeks away, but many parts of the country have already experienced snowfalls. With winter weather, of course, comes the danger of snow and ice on the roadways. Local municipalities often struggle to keep the roads clear for safe travel. At the state level, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is responsible for clearing state highways and interstates. Unfortunately, however, accidents are not uncommon when roads are covered by snow or ice. Under Connecticut law, it is possible to take legal action against CTDOT for negligence, but a ruling by the state Supreme Court recently limited how far the Department’s liability extends.

A Weather-Related Accident

In 2011, a man was seriously hurt in an early-morning accident on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge between New London and Groton. The pickup truck he was driving slid on ice, rolled, and crashed into the structure of the bridge. The man’s accident was just one of many that day.

Court records indicate that the state police had started making calls to CTDOT an hour before the man’s crash, requesting a salt truck from the department’s fleet. With the salt truck still about an hour away, the state police did not shut down the bridge until later that morning—after the man was injured.

The man filed suit against the Department of Transportation alleging that the agency was negligent in its duties to keep the highway safe for travel. Part of his claim included allegations that the state police should have closed down the bridge until the salt truck could arrive.

A Split Decision

Last month, the Connecticut Supreme Court took on part of the man’s case—specifically the portion dealing with actions of the state police. In a 4-3 decision, the high court ruled that while a motorist may sue CTDOT—namely, its commissioner—for alleged negligence in maintaining a road, the department cannot be held liable for the actions of the police who patrol the roads.

The law says that the transportation commissioner can be sued if a motorist’s injuries occurred on a bridge or highway as the results of “neglect or default of the state or any of its employees.” Previous cases have interpreted the latter part of that phrase rather broadly. In this case, the Supreme Court determined that the state employee must be involved with maintaining roadways and must have a connection with the transportation commissioner’s duties in order for the legal action to be appropriate. In the case at hand, the court ruled, the state police did not have such a connection.

The decision only affected the portion of the case dealing with the state police. The remainder of the case against CTDOT is pending.

Dissenting Concerns

The majority opinion held that allowing the action to continue against the transportation commissioner for the actions of the state police would increase the scope of the commissioner’s liability beyond what is reasonable. The commissioner could potentially be held liable for any actions by any employee of the state, even if the employee had no affiliation whatsoever with CTDOT.

On the other side, however, three justices wrote a dissenting opinion. They expressed that the language of the law was intended to hold negligent state employees liable for dangerous highways, whether the employee works for CTDOT or not. The dissenting justices wrote that the court’s decision has limited the rights of those injured on state highways “in a way the legislature did not intend.”

Call a Connecticut Personal Injury Attorney Today

Filing an injury claim against a government entity can be difficult and complex, but an East Hartford personal injury lawyer can help. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of negligence by a government employee, call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.

 

Sources:

https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-supremes-bridge-liability-20181116-story.html

https://www.jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROcr/CR330/330CR62.pdf

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marijuana, Connecticut personal injury lawyerVoters in Massachusetts approved a referendum in 2016 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the commonwealth. It took more than two years, however, for lawmakers to come up with a structure and regulatory system that would allow for legal retail sales. Last week, the first retail stores finally opened with a great deal of fanfare. In fact, in the town of Northampton, the town’s mayor was the first in line to make a purchase at one of the new dispensaries.

While the debate over recreational marijuana has largely focused on criminal laws—and the differences between laws at the state and federal levels—there are other important concerns as well. Two separate studies recently found a statistically significant increase in car accidents in states that have legalized recreational cannabis. Given the geographic proximity of Massachusetts to Connecticut, motorists in the Nutmeg State may have reasons to be worried.

Crash Rates on the Rise

Both studies were presented at the Combating Alcohol- and Drug-Impaired Driving summit hosted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in October. The first study was conducted by the IIHS’s Highway Loss Data Institute and compared crash rates in states where recreational use of marijuana is legal to neighboring states where recreational use is not. Using crash data from 2012 to 2017, the study found that the rate of accidents rose by about 6 percent in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada compared to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. The time period was chosen because recreational use was first legalized in Colorado and Washington in 2012.

The second study was also conducted by the IIHS, and it found a 5.2 percent increase in police-reported accidents between 2012 and 2016 in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Officials from the IIHS say that the findings of the second study are consistent with the findings of the first.

What Does This Mean for Connecticut Drivers?

As the sale of recreational marijuana gets underway in Massachusetts, Connecticut drivers need to be vigilant, especially when traveling to Massachusetts. The Connecticut State Police has issued warnings to residents about bringing marijuana back from Massachusetts to Connecticut, but there is no realistic way to prevent every such instance. With easier access to marijuana now a reality, Connecticut is likely to experience an increase of drug-impaired drivers and drug-related accidents as well.

Contact a Hartford Drugged Driving Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash caused by a driver who was under the influence of marijuana or any other substance, you may be entitled to collect damages for your medical bills, lost wages, pain, and more. Contact an experienced Connecticut personal injury attorney to discuss your available options. Call 860-290-8690 for a free, no-obligation consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.

 

Sources:

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/massachusetts-mayor-first-buy-legal-weed-758774/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/10/19/car-crashes-up-states-legal-marijuana-studies-show/1693567002/

https://www.iihs.org/iihs/news/desktopnews/crashes-rise-in-first-states-to-begin-legalized-retail-sales-of-recreational-marijuana

Posted in Dangerous Driving Habits, New Law | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment | Edit