Connecticut Criminal Law & Injury Blog

Hartford, CT murder defense attorneyMurder is one of the oldest and most serious crimes in civilized society. The killing of one human being by another is taken very seriously and can come with extremely severe punishments. Many states divide murder charges into first, second, and third degree murder, but Connecticut is slightly different. Rather than dividing murder charges into degrees, Connecticut determines the seriousness of the murder charge based on a variety of factors, such as the people involved in the crime, whether or not the murder occurred at the same time a felony was committed, the type of felony that was committed, and other circumstances.

Connecticut Murder Charges

According to the Connecticut Penal Code, murder is defined as causing the death of another person when the offender has the intent to cause death. A murder charge becomes a murder with special circumstances when the offender:

  • Murders a police officer, firefighter, inspector, or other government official performing their duties;
  • Murders for financial gain or hires someone to murder for financial gain;
  • Murders someone and had previously been convicted of murder or felony murder;
  • Murders while serving a life sentence;
  • Murders during a kidnapping;
  • Murders during sexual assault;
  • Murders two or more people at once; or
  • Murders someone under the age of 16.

Additional charges and penalties may apply when a person commits murder while also committing or attempting to commit any of the following felonies:

  • Robbery;
  • Burglary;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Sexual assault in the first, second, or third degree; or
  • Escape (e.g., from a correctional institution) in the first or second degree.

Manslaughter is also a murder charge, but is different than actual murder. Under Connecticut law, manslaughter can be classified into first degree and second degree manslaughter. First degree manslaughter is committed when a person intends to inflict serious physical injury to another and ends up killing them, or when a person engages in reckless conduct with indifference to human life and kills another. Second degree manslaughter occurs when a person acts recklessly and accidentally kills another person.

Sentences for Murder Charges

When it comes to sentencing, like most crimes, murder charges in Connecticut are decided depending on the type of murder charge and the circumstances surrounding the case. Basic murder is classified as a Class A felony. This means that the offender will face a prison sentence of no less than 25 years but not more than life imprisonment. If a person is convicted of a murder with special circumstances, they will face a term of life imprisonment without the possibility of release.

First degree manslaughter is classified as a Class B felony, which carries a sentence of one to 20 years in prison. Second degree manslaughter is a Class C felony and carries a sentence of one to 10 years in prison.

Contact a Hartford, CT Murder Defense Lawyer

Murder is one of the most serious crimes you can be charged with. If you are facing charges for any type of murder, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we have over 20 years of experience defending clients against violent crime charges. Contact our office at 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2015/pub/chap_952.htm#secs_53a-53_to_53a-54

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Hartford federal drug charges defense lawyerBeing charged with a drug crime is a serious matter. Those who commit these offenses are not only breaking state laws, but they are likely violating federal laws as well. This means an offender can be prosecuted at the federal level with sentencing that is more strict than state sentencing.

A person can be charged with both state and federal drug charges for the same crime, which may seem unfair at first, but ultimately makes sense. When multiple jurisdictions are involved in a crime, double jeopardy does not apply. The idea of “dual sovereignty” gives both states and the federal government the ability to prosecute an offender for the same crime. However, there are a few differences between federal and state drug charges, and it is important to understand them.

When Does a Drug Crime Become a Federal Offense?

Not all drug crimes will be of interest to federal prosecutors. Only certain types of drug charges will usually be prosecuted at the federal level. State drug crimes often consist of misdemeanor charges related to possession for a first offense or possession with intent to distribute, which is a felony, when the alleged criminal activity is confined within the state of Connecticut.

A person will typically be charged with federal drug crimes in major cases involving significant amounts of drugs or the use of a firearm. Federal charges will also apply in cases involving interstate commerce; notably, this not only includes cases in which criminal activity occurred across state lines, but also situations in which a person used their cell phone to conduct criminal activity, since mobile phone signals will often be relayed across multiple states. Ultimately, the decision of whether to prosecute an offense at the state or federal level is up to the arresting party, which may include both state and federal agents.

Differences Between State and Federal Laws

Though all drug crimes are technically federal crimes, not all drug crimes are prosecuted at the federal level. Most of the time, federal drug crimes involve drug trafficking or manufacturing, and they can be punished with harsher sentences.

For example, In the state of Connecticut, those who are convicted of selling, manufacturing or distributing fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, or other narcotics will face a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison for a first offense, although a judge may sentence an offender to less than five years if the person is deemed to be dependent on the substance for which they were arrested at the time of the arrest.

Federal drug charges for the same types of crimes can be rather severe. Judges are required to consider federal sentencing guidelines for drug charges, which provide recommendations based on the quantity of drugs involved and the person’s criminal history. However, when following these guidelines, a judge cannot sentence an offender to less than the statutory mandatory minimum sentence for the offense, with limited exceptions. Those convicted of trafficking heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or fentanyl will face a minimum five-year prison sentence and a maximum sentence of life in prison. If a person is charged with possession of a firearm in connection with a drug-related offense, the statutes require an additional sentence of 10 years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed.

It is also important to note that in Connecticut, drug offenses are only charged by Information after a finding of probable cause by a judge. Federal cases can be prosecuted by complaint, Information, or by indictment by a grand jury.

Are You Facing Drug Charges? A Hartford, CT Drug Crime Defense Attorney Can Help

Drug charges should never be taken lightly. Some drug crimes are serious enough that you could face decades in prison. If you have been arrested on drug charges — whether they are state or federal charges — you should immediately contact a Hartford drug crime defense lawyer. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can help you form a strong, solid defense against these charges. Get in touch with our office today by calling 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DCP/drug_control/pdf/ControlledDrugSchedulesViolationsPenaltiespdf.pdf?la=en

https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/drug_of_abuse.pdf#page=30

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walkway, East Hartford premises liability attorneyIn case we were not convinced, the last few days has proven that winter has officially arrived in New England. As you probably realize, sub-freezing temperatures, along with the ice and snow that typically accompany them, can present a variety of dangers. Icy roads make car accidents more likely, and snow-covered walkways can lead to serious slip-and-fall injuries. Sometimes, snow can contribute to an accident by hiding other hazards, such broken sidewalk slabs or black ice. Such was allegedly the case for a former Vernon resident who recently settled an injury claim against the apartment complex where he once lived.

A Dangerous Combination

According to court records, the incident took place in January 2015 after a snowfall. A 41-year-old man fell on the walkway of his apartment complex on West Main Street in Vernon. The man claimed that the walkway was cracked and uneven, but that snow and ice covered up the walkway’s poor condition. He reportedly suffered injuries to his left leg, knee, and hip, and surgery was required to put hardware in his leg.

In October 2017, the injured man filed a lawsuit against the owners of the apartment complex for negligence related to the incident. The suit alleged that the owners knew or should have known that the sidewalk was in a state of disrepair and that residents would be walking on it but did nothing to address the problem. The original claim sought $450,000 in damages, including $100,000 in medical bills.

The owners of the property filed a response to the lawsuit in which they blamed the man for failing to watch where he was walking. They claimed that “he failed to use reasonable care for his own safety” and denied any wrongdoing or negligence.

A Reasonable Settlement

Late last month, the two sides were able to negotiate an agreement without the need for a mediator. The plaintiff’s lawyer said that the defense made an initial offer of $185,000. After negotiations, the final amount of the settlement was $350,000. An attorney for the claimant said that he thought the outcome was reasonable, based on his experience.

Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents

When you are a guest on another person’s property, the property owner is responsible for keeping the property free of hazards. If eliminating a hazard is not possible, the owner must take steps to ensure that guests are aware of the hazard so that they can avoid it. In this case, the owner failed to fix the walkway and did not mark the cracks in such a way that would have been visible after a snowfall. As a result, someone was injured and the property owner was required to pay. The walkway has also been fixed since the incident.

Call an East Hartford Injury Lawyer for Help

If you or someone you love has been injured on someone else’s property, contact an experienced Connecticut personal injury attorney. Call 860-290-8690 for a free, no-obligation consultation and case evaluation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.

 

Sources:

https://www.law.com/ctlawtribune/2019/01/15/man-who-fell-on-snow-covered-apartment-walkway-settles-suit-for-350000/

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5vwdknVlZ77NWtnZ0VFZHFJcE5HREtha1c4NEhZYVpYdkRR/view

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charges, Connecticut personal injury attorneyIn today’s digitally connected world, virtually everyone has a voice that can be heard across the globe. Most people, however, do not really think of social media that way, largely limiting their posts and ideas to their friends, families, and followers. Sometimes, though, a social media post can cause a great deal of trouble for the poster, including the danger of being arrested. While it is not common for a person to be arrested for the things they say online, it can and occasionally does happen.

New Hampshire Man Arrested for Criminal Defamation

In May of last year, a man in New Hampshire was arrested by local police for comments he posted on Facebook. The man had not made any threats nor were his comments harassing anyone. Instead, the police allege that he violated the state’s law regarding criminal defamation—sometimes called criminal libel in other jurisdictions. The New Hampshire law makes it a criminal offense for a person to “purposely communicate to any person, orally or in writing, and information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.”

So, what was the false information that the man posted? It turns out that the man had simply posted a comment on an article published online by the local paper about a local police officer. His comment said that the officer “is the dirtiest most corrupt cop that I have ever had the displeasure of knowing.” He also called the local police chief a “coward” who “did nothing about it.” The man was arrested on charges of criminal defamation, but the case was dismissed after the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division criticized the arrest.

The man has now filed a lawsuit against the New Hampshire Attorney General looking to have the law declared unconstitutional for violating the First Amendment.

Criminal Defamation and Libel

It is unreasonable to think that one can simply say anything—even online—without the potential for criminal consequences. For example, it is understandably a crime in most jurisdictions for a person to make threats of violence on social media. In fact, an East Hartford High School student was arrested for breach of peace related to threats that he made online. Local police spent significant time and resources to address the threats, so a criminal charge was largely in order.

Laws that pertain to criminal defamation and libel are much more concerning. While Connecticut does not have such criminal laws on its books, the nearby states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts both do. Critics of such laws say that they are “unconstitutionally vague,” which means that local police can basically choose who to go after and when.

Civil laws exist that address defamation and libel but those typically require a victim to show that he or she was harmed by the published or posted information in some way. In practice, however, it appears that law enforcement and public officials are disproportionately pushing for criminal libel prosecutions, possibly because their critics do not have the money to make a civil suit worth the effort. Many of those who are prosecuted also lack the resources to hire a competent defense attorney, leading to guilty pleas and convictions regardless of whether their speech was truly defamation or libel.

Contact an East Hartford Defense Attorney

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges for posts that you made online, contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney. Call 860-290-8690 for a free consultation and case review at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.

 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/07/us/politics/criminal-libel-laws-lawsuit.html

https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/frese-v-macdonald-complaint

https://www.wfsb.com/news/student-arrested-for-east-hartford-high-school-social-media-threat/article_313d1886-6145-5348-9d1f-5b517f48435f.html

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