Connecticut Criminal Law & Injury Blog

Hartford criminal law attorney police interrogationIf you are arrested because you are suspected of committing a crime, there are certain procedures that must be followed. Before police can begin to interrogate you or ask you questions, they are required to read you your rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. These rights, known as Miranda Rights, include your right to remain silent or not incriminate yourself, your right to an attorney (or if you cannot afford an attorney, your right to have an attorney appointed for you at no cost), and your right to have your attorney present before you answer any questions.

Protecting the Constitutional rights of citizens has always been of great importance to both the federal government and individual state governments. Because of this, supreme courts often hear cases that assert that people were wrongly convicted of a crime because their Constitutional rights were violated. This is exactly the case in a recent appeals case heard by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The Right to an Attorney During Interrogation

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled on State v. Purcell, a case concerning a man arrested on sexual assault charges who was denied counsel after he made repeated, though indirect, statements about having an attorney present. The man was convicted of three counts of risk of injury to a child and received a sentence of 16 years in prison, suspended after 9 years, plus 10 years of probation. The man appealed the conviction, but the appellate court upheld the decision.

Police transcripts showed that the man made repeated statements about having his attorney present when police were interrogating him about the incidents. Though he made these statements multiple times, he did not clearly and definitively demand to have his attorney present, which is why police ignored the statements and continued to question him. The questioning produced statements that were used against the man and eventually led to his conviction.

The man’s attorneys appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court and stated that the police not only failed to clarify whether or not he was invoking his right to an attorney, but they also discouraged and deterred him from exercising that right.

The Connecticut Supreme Court’s Decision

A previous U.S. Supreme Court case, Davis v. United States, set the precedent that during an interrogation, police were not obligated to stop and clarify a suspect’s ambiguous statements about having an attorney present. The Connecticut Supreme Court came to the decision that the actions of the officers met the standards set by the Davis case. However, the Court stated in its decision that under the Connecticut Constitution, suspects are provided with an additional layer of protection beyond what is provided by the federal Constitution and that the Davis rule could leave some citizens vulnerable. The Court ruled that Connecticut police officers are required to cease questioning in order to clarify an ambiguous request for counsel before they continue an interrogation, and because the officers in this case did not do so, the case was remanded to a lower court for a new trial.

Contact a Connecticut Criminal Defense Attorney

Being accused of any crime can be a terrifying experience. Prior to this Connecticut Supreme Court case, there were very few protections given to suspects who did not expressly request that they would like an attorney to be present during questioning. Now, the Connecticut Supreme Court has stated that police must pause to clarify any vague requests for counsel. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we strive to uphold all rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens. Our knowledgeable Hartford, CT criminal defense lawyer can help those who are facing criminal charges, as well as those who want to appeal a conviction on the basis that their rights were violated. Call our office today at 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.law.com/ctlawtribune/2019/04/05/ct-high-court-clarifies-rights-of-suspects-seeking-counsel/

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Hartford federal drug charges defense attorneyFor years now, many lawmakers have agreed that the United States criminal justice system has needed major reforms. Many bills intended to address this issue have been introduced in the past few years, but most have fallen on deaf ears in Congress and have not made their way to the President’s desk. This all changed in December 2018 when President Trump signed the FIRST STEP Act into law. The FIRST STEP Act is one of the first major changes to sentencing for federal drug crimes and is intended to help reduce the prison population. It will also help those who are newly convicted with drug crimes.

Reforms Made By the FIRST STEP Act

The FIRST STEP Act pushes the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to assess the risks and needs for every offender when they are sentenced. Then, the BOP will attempt to reduce the rate of reoffending through individualized and evidence-based plans, which will be offered to all inmates. Programs that could be a part of these plans may include substance abuse treatment, mental health care, anger-management courses, job training, educational support, and even faith-based initiatives.

Another reform made by the Act is intended to help inmates transition back into their communities. The Act allows inmates to serve a portion of the end of their imprisonment in a halfway house or in-home confinement. This allows inmates to successfully transition back into normal life and lowers their chances of reoffending. The BOP will perform the risks and needs assessment more frequently during this time to make sure the services the inmate needs are there.

The Drug Sentencing “Safety Valve”

Under federal law, there are certain minimum prison sentences for federal crimes. This includes mandatory minimum sentences for drug charges, even though many federal drug offenders commit low-level and nonviolent drug offenses. One exception to the minimum sentencing rules is the “safety valve,” which applies to offenders of certain federal drug crimes.

As long as offenders qualify for the “safety valve,” judges do not have to follow minimum sentencing guidelines. The offender must meet five criteria in order to qualify for the “safety valve.” To qualify, the offender:

  • Must not have more than four criminal history points, not including criminal history points that resulted from a one-point offense;
  • Must not have a prior three-point offense or a prior two-point violent offense;
  • Must not have used violence or credible threats of violence or possess a weapon in connection with the offense;
  • Must have committed an offense that did not involve death or serious bodily injury to another person;
  • Must not have been an organizer, leader, or supervisor of others in the offense; and
  • Must truthfully provide any and all information and evidence concerning the offense before the sentencing hearing.

A Connecticut Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Can Help

Being charged with a drug crime is a big deal, especially when it is a federal drug crime. Though the FIRST STEP Act has allowed for some major reforms in drug sentencing, you can still face rather serious and harsh consequences when charged with drug crimes. If you are facing drug-related charges, you should immediately contact a skilled Hartford, CT drug crimes defense lawyer. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we have over 20 years of experience helping clients fight against federal criminal charges. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at 860-290-8690.

Sources:

https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R41326

https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/training/newsletters/2019-special_FIRST-STEP-Act.pdf

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr5682

https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/how-first-step-act-became-law-and-what-happens-next

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Hartford sexual assault defense attorney minor victimSex crimes are some of the most serious and harshly punished crimes there are. Even just being accused of a sex crime can have a negative and long-lasting impact on your life. The state of Connecticut does not take kindly to those who are convicted of being a sex offender, and consequences can be even more severe for those who are convicted of a sex offense involving a minor child. If you are convicted of a sex crime in Connecticut, you could a face long prison sentence, extremely expensive fines, and the requirement to register as a sex offender.

Types of Sex Offenses Upon a Minor

In Connecticut, sex offenses are broken down into degrees. Though all sex offenses are extremely serious, first-degree sexual assault is the most harshly punished, and fourth-degree sexual assault is one of the lesser offenses. When it comes to sexual offenses involving victims who are minors, the same laws apply as if the victim was an adult, but the charges automatically become much more serious, and the consequences become more harsh.

In Connecticut, a minor is defined as a person under the age of 16. However, if the alleged perpetrator of sexual assault is in a supervisory position over the alleged victim, such as a coach or teacher, they can be charged with sexual assault of a minor, even if the alleged victim is 18 years old. In addition, anyone charged with Sexual Assault of a Minor will automatically be charged with Risk of Injury to a Minor under Connecticut General Statute 53-21.

Here are some examples of sex offenses involving a minor victim:

  • First-Degree Sexual Assault: First-degree sexual assault is increased to a Class A felony if the victim is under the age of 13 and the actor is more than two years older, or if the victim is under the age of 16 and force or threat of force was used. This means that offenders face a minimum of 10 years in prison without the possibility of having the sentence reduced and a maximum of 25 years in prison, along with up to $20,000 in fines.
  • Aggravated First-Degree Sexual Assault: This charge is increased to a Class A felony if the victim is under 16 years old. This means an offender will face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison with no possibility of having the sentence reduced. If the assault involved the use of force or threat of force to a minor under the age of 16, then 20 years of the sentence is not permitted to be reduced.
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Minor: This charge can go into effect if a person commits first-degree sexual assault, aggravated first-degree sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, or promoting prostitution in the first or second degree when the victim is under the age of 13 and the offender kidnapped, illegally restrained, stalked, used violence, or caused serious physical injury or disfigurement to the victim or has previously been convicted of a violent sexual assault. This is a Class A felony, which carries a sentence of 25 to 50 years in prison. For a first offense, 25 years of the sentence are not permitted to be reduced, and for a second offense, 50 years of the sentence are not permitted to be reduced.
  • Fourth-Degree Sexual Assault: While this charge is typically a Class A misdemeanor, it is increased to a Class D felony if the alleged victim is a minor. A Class D felony carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Our Skilled Hartford, CT Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Can Help

As soon as you are accused of any type of sex crime, the first thing you need to do is immediately contact a knowledgeable Connecticut sex crimes defense lawyer. The sooner you do this, the sooner you and your attorney can get to work on building your defense. If you have been accused of committing a sex crime against a victim who is a minor, your freedom, reputation, and future are at stake. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we understand the impact a conviction for a sex offense could have on your life, and we will work tirelessly to avoid a conviction whenever possible. Call our office today at 860-290-8690 to set up a free consultation.

Sources:

https://apps.rainn.org/policy/policy-crime-definitions-export.cfm?state=Connecticut&group=3

https://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap_952.htm#sec_53a-65

https://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap_952.htm#sec_53a-35a

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Hartford auto accident attorney gather evidenceMost Americans rely on motor vehicles to go about their daily lives. According to the Pew Research Center, around 88 percent of American households have at least one car. While cars are one of the best inventions in modern history, they also bring with them certain dangers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stated that there were more than 7.2 million police-reported traffic accidents in 2016 alone.

After a car accident, you will typically want to file a claim with the insurance company of the driver who was at fault, and it may be necessary to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries. Sometimes, liability is not always immediately obvious, and it is important to gather evidence that will demonstrate who was at fault for the accident. A skilled personal injury can help obtain the necessary evidence, including:

Photographs

Photos are often the most compelling pieces of evidence in a car accident liability case. Photographs are regarded as hard evidence and can showcase many aspects of an accident scene. After an accident, you should try to get photos of:

  • Damage to your vehicle
  • Damage to the other vehicle
  • The whole scene of the accident
  • Any street signs, traffic signs, and traffic lights near the accident
  • Anything that might have contributed to the accident, such as road debris, potholes, or weather conditions

Police Reports

If there are injuries or property damage, police will most likely show up to the scene of the accident. When this occurs, the police officer will begin taking notes for a police report. Their report will contain information about the accident that will be a key factor in determining liability. Information on the police report will include:

  • A description of what happened
  • Information about who was in each vehicle
  • Witness information and statements
  • Damages to any of the vehicles
  • Injuries to drivers or passengers

Witness Testimonies

Though witness testimonies are a part of a police report, it is also a good idea to contact witnesses independently. If you are able to, get the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. Your attorney can contact these witnesses and obtain their testimony about what they saw happen during the collision.

Contact a Connecticut Car Accident Attorney Today

Car accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, and they can leave you with serious injuries that can affect your life for years to come. If you have been a victim of a car accident, you need a skilled Hartford, CT car accident lawyer to help you navigate the situation and pursue the compensation you deserve. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we have more than 20 years of experience proving fault in car accident cases. Contact our office today by calling 860-290-8690 to set up a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.dmv.org/accident-guide/preserving-evidence.php

https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812580

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