Connecticut Criminal Law & Injury Blog

East Hartford criminal defense lawyer for state and federal chargesThe United States Constitution gives citizens dozens of rights that are indicative of the spirit and history of the country, such as the right to free speech, the right to peacefully protest, and the right to bear arms. These rights are contained in the first ten Amendments, called the Bill of Rights, and they are constantly being analyzed in different contexts by scholars, lawmakers, and the members of the U.S. Supreme Court. One of these rights is the protection against double jeopardy, or being tried for the same crime more than once. This has been an issue that has wedged its way into the Supreme Court more than once and that has held precedent for many years.

Understanding Dual Sovereignty and Double Jeopardy

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains a variety of protections and rights given to citizens concerning criminal trials. One of these protections is from what is known as “double jeopardy” or being tried for the same crime twice. Originally, the Fifth Amendment was only meant to apply to the federal government, but over the years, the Supreme Court has ruled that it also applies to state governments.

The issue that the Supreme Court has faced again and again is whether or not a person can be tried for the same instance of a crime in both state and federal courts. For many years, the Supreme Court has upheld that a person can, in fact, be tried in both state and federal courts for the same instance of a crime because the state government and federal government are technically two different jurisdictions or “sovereigns.” This is known as the dual sovereignty doctrine.

This doctrine has also been referenced in crimes that take place across several states, where more than one state has jurisdiction to prosecute. For example, a person who kidnaps a child and transports that child across state lines can be prosecuted in multiple states, because he or she was in more than one state while they committed the crime. In theory, a person could face multiple state and federal charges for a single crime that took place across more than one state and that violated the laws of multiple states, as well as federal laws.

Get in Touch With a Skilled Hartford, CT State and Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you were accused of committing an action that is illegal in both state and federal statutes, it is possible that you can be tried and receive a sentence for your crime in both the state and federal court systems. If you are facing charges in more than one jurisdiction, you need help from a Connecticut criminal defense attorney who has experience handling both state and federal charges. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can help you fight for your rights and develop a solid defense against any and all criminal charges. Call our office today at 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/17-646_d18e.pdf

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/17-646

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/double_jeopardy

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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for marijuana crimesIn recent years, the recreational and medical use of marijuana has become legal in several states across the country. Currently, 33 states, including Connecticut, permit the medicinal use of marijuana, and 11 states and the District of Columbia allow the recreational use of marijuana for adults. Even just 10 years ago, police could use the “smell of marijuana” as a legitimate reason to search a citizen’s vehicle or person for evidence which could be used to pursue charges for drug possession or DUI. However, times have changed, and some courts have found that this is not an adequate reason to conduct a search.

Is Marijuana Odor Considered Evidence?

Now that more than half of the states have legalized marijuana in some way, lawmakers and law enforcement officials have run into an issue of constitutionality when it comes to using the smell of marijuana as probable cause to search a vehicle or a person. In the minority of states that have not legalized marijuana, a police officer who believes they smell pot has probable cause to search a vehicle in most cases. In other states, however, the line has become blurred, because the smell of pot does not necessarily point to a crime.

“Pot Smell” and the Fourth Amendment

The “automobile exception” has long been recognized by the Supreme Court as an exception to the Fourth Amendment, which states that citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant. In many cases, a vehicle may be searched without the need to obtain a warrant if an officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. Police have long used the smell of marijuana as an excuse to conduct vehicle searches, though it is now being reconsidered whether or not the supposed presence of this type of odor is enough to allow a warrantless search. Courts in many states, such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maryland, have ruled that marijuana odor no longer gives police the right to search a vehicle.

Confusion Surrounds the Pot Smell Issue

Currently, there is no official conclusion on whether or not the smell of marijuana is enough to allow officers to search a vehicle or a person. Many states that have legalized recreational marijuana have concluded that there are very few instances in which the smell of marijuana could justify a vehicle search. However, even in states where marijuana has been legalized, certain activities are still illegal, such as driving while under the influence of marijuana. In these cases, probable cause to perform a search could potentially be based on odor.

In a recent case in Maryland, a court ruled that the search of a man’s vehicle using the smell of marijuana as probable cause was not unconstitutional, because pot is still considered to be contraband. However, the court did rule that the smell of pot was not probable cause to search the man himself.

A Hartford, CT Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

In the state of Connecticut, medical marijuana has been legal since 2012, and possession of a half-ounce or less of marijuana has been reduced to a civil violation rather than a crime. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime because a police officer “smelled marijuana” in your vehicle, you need to contact a Connecticut drug crimes defense attorney right away. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can help you fight criminal charges based on an unconstitutional search of you or your vehicle. Call our office today at 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/national-international/In-Era-of-Legal-Pot-Can-Police-Search-Cars-Based-on-Odor-560242711.html

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/after-decriminalization-pot-smell-and-joint-didnt-justify-search-court-says-hemp-laws-also-raise-issues

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Hartford criminal defense lawyer for pardons and deportationIn the United States, immigration has always been a topic of interest, especially in recent years. For many years, immigration requirements have stated that an immigrant who commits certain crimes can lose their citizenship or residency status, and they may be deported by immigration enforcement officials. Immigration laws are complex, and there are many provisions relating to what happens when a non-citizen commits a crime, which is why help from a skilled criminal defense attorney is important in these types of cases.

English Immigrant Receives Pardon for Crimes

In a recent case, an English immigrant who was previously convicted of crimes is still being held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Boston. ICE is still attempting to deport her, even though she received a full pardon for her crimes. The woman, who is currently a lawful permanent resident of the United States, was four years old when she came to the U.S. with her mother. The crimes that ICE is attempting to deport her for include misdemeanor retail theft charges and a felony larceny charge.

Hartford Woman Still Faces Deportation

Connecticut’s Attorney General has been fighting to stop the deportation that ICE is insisting on. ICE has been trying to deport the woman since 2012. In March of 2019, ICE detained the woman, and one day later, the state of Connecticut issued a full and unconditional pardon for her crimes. ICE is arguing that Connecticut’s pardon does not absolve the woman of her crimes, because the pardon was not granted by the state’s governor, but rather by the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Connecticut’s Attorney General has stated in the Court of Appeals that the woman should be permitted to continue living in the United States because of the pardon. He noted that Connecticut is not the only state that delegates pardons to a state board, and there are two other states that have been able to successfully prevent the deportation of immigrants through the use of a pardon.

Contact a Knowledgeable Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer

Many lawmakers and law enforcement officials have kept an eye on the English woman’s case, as it may point to a potential outcome in other cases where immigrants are facing deportation for crimes. Technically, a pardon by the state should prevent an immigrant from being deported, though the English woman’s case is still being fought. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can help you address criminal charges that may affect your immigration status. Contact our skilled Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney today at 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-hartford-wayzaro-walton-deportation-20190409-544uikhidrdohbjcuepn4tbf6u-story.html

https://www.nepr.net/post/can-full-pardon-state-connecticut-protect-immigrant-deportation#stream/0

https://ctmirror.org/2019/09/04/tong-tackles-three-immigration-issues-in-four-days/

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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for digital evidenceThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that all citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government without a warrant. This provides protection against unfair tactics by prosecutors when a person is facing criminal charges. However, in the 21st century, the increased use of digital media has resulted in a slew of complexities in criminal cases. The Fourth Amendment was written to protect the privacy of American citizens, but what happens when your private digital files are no longer private to only you? In some cases, the “private search doctrine” may apply.

What Is the Private Search Doctrine?

Using the private search doctrine, once a private party (who is not involved with the government) has already done an initial search, the government can repeat that search without infringing upon the property owner’s individual Fourth Amendment rights. Basically, the private search doctrine allows the government to perform a search that is not technically a search in the Constitutional sense.

A Recent North Carolina Case Sparks Controversy

In 2014, a North Carolina woman was looking for a photograph on her boyfriend’s USB thumb drive. While she was clicking through folders and subfolders on the drive, she came across a partially-nude photo of her nine-year-old granddaughter. Upset, she stopped her search and informed her daughter of the photo. The pair took the thumb drive to the police station, where a detective began to look through the folders to find the photo the woman was referring to. While the detective was looking, he saw other photos that he thought might be child pornography. Once he found the photo of the woman’s granddaughter, he stopped his search and obtained a warrant to search the thumb drive for photos of child pornography.

Charges were filed against the woman’s boyfriend. He argued that the warrantless search of his thumb drive violated his Fourth Amendment rights, but the trial court admitted the evidence uncovered by the police officer and ultimately ended up convicting him. The case went to the appeals court, which overturned the conviction on the grounds of violating the Fourth Amendment. The state brought the case to the North Carolina Supreme Court, which ruled that the search was unconstitutional.

When Is a Search a Search?

With the issue being so controversial, this case may soon end up in the United States Supreme Court for a final ruling on whether or not the search in question actually violated the Fourth Amendment. The private search doctrine states that a government “search” is not actually a search if the unit being searched has already been viewed by a private individual. In these cases, the question becomes, “What is the unit being searched?” Is the “unit” the thumb drive itself, or does it refer to a folder or subfolder within the thumb drive?

In the North Carolina case, the detective did not seek to find other evidence of child pornography on the man’s thumb drive, and he stopped his search after he found the photo in question. However, there was no telling whether the folders and subfolders that he looked through during his search were the folders and subfolders that the woman also opened when she found the photograph in question. The question of whether the photos found are admissible as evidence in court may play a significant role in these types of cases going forward.

Contact a Hartford, CT Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Applying Constitutional rights to criminal cases can be tricky in today’s world. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we understand the complexities involved in these types of cases, and we fight to protect the rights of clients who are facing criminal charges. If you have been charged with a crime, and your case involves digital evidence, you need to contact our skilled Connecticut criminal law attorney today. Call our office at 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://reason.com/2019/08/23/north-carolina-court-deepens-split-on-private-searches-of-digital-evidence/

https://www.yalelawjournal.org/forum/the-private-search-doctrine-after-jones

https://orinkerrblog2.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/55a18-1.pdf

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