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Connecticut criminal law attorney for probation violationsThe issue of mass incarceration has received a great deal of attention in recent years. However, probation is another aspect of the criminal justice system that affects even more people than incarceration, and advocates for criminal justice reform believe that it is used far too often and imposes unnecessary restrictions that affect people’s rights. Because of this, many are calling for changes to laws and policies that would increase protections for people who are involved in criminal cases and help them receive the treatment and rehabilitation they need.

Problems With Probation

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that in 2018, 3.54 million people in the United States were serving a sentence of probation, while 1.6 million people were incarcerated in jails and prisons. This illustrates how often sentences of probation are issued in criminal cases. In fact, probation is often the default sentence imposed when defendants make plea bargains with prosecutors and agree to plead guilty in order to receive lesser charges.

While probation is often seen as an alternative to prison that allows a defendant to receive rehabilitation while remaining integrated into the community, it can impose a number of restrictions that affect people’s rights. Those on probation are subject to supervision, monitoring, and other forms of control, and they are often required to follow multiple types of arbitrary conditions that are unrelated to their criminal charges. 

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Connecticut criminal defense lawyer for traffic stopsTraffic stops have been a topic of discussion recently due to multiple incidents in which people were killed by police officers after being pulled over for minor traffic violations. The most recent high-profile case, which took place in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, involved Daunte Wright, a Black man, being killed after being pulled over for an expired vehicle registration. In that case, the officer claimed that she meant to use a Taser, but accidentally drew her firearm instead and fired a fatal shot. 

Unfortunately, these types of situations occur all too frequently. Many drivers, especially those who are minorities or people of color, worry that they will do the wrong thing after being pulled over, leading police officers to take violent action and injure or kill them. By understanding the right steps to take during a traffic stop, drivers and passengers can avoid being harmed and protect their rights if they end up facing criminal charges.

What You Should Do During a Traffic Stop

Police officers may pull drivers over for a variety of reasons, including speeding or other traffic violations, as well as issues such as expired license plates, broken headlights or tail lights, or because a vehicle matched the description of one that was involved in an alleged crime. In many cases, officers use these types of stops as a pretext to make a criminal arrest for drug charges or motor vehicle theft. If you are stopped by police, you will want to do the following:

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Hartford criminal defense lawyer for police misconductOver the past several years, a great deal of attention has been paid to the issue of police misconduct. In several high-profile cases, police officers have been accused of using excessive force, especially against minorities. This was most recently highlighted in the case of Daunte Wright, who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. This particular case has highlighted an issue that affects many Black people and other minorities. Police officers often pull people over for minor traffic violations, but these incidents may lead to more serious criminal charges, and an encounter may turn deadly, resulting in serious injuries or death.

How Police Use Traffic Stops as “Fishing Expeditions”

Traffic stops are meant to protect public safety, and police officers may stop a driver who has committed traffic violations such as speeding, running a red light, making illegal turns, or other unlawful actions that endanger others on the road. However, officers may pull people over for other types of violations, such as an expired registration or a broken tail light. 

In many cases, traffic stops for minor violations are used as an attempt to find probable cause for other more serious offenses, and people of color are disproportionately targeted in these types of situations. In the case of Daunte Wright, the officer cited him for having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, stating that this was an obstruction that affected his view of the road. Many people have alleged that police officers perform these types of traffic stops in hopes of uncovering criminal activity that will allow them to make an arrest. By using a minor traffic violation as a pretext, officers may then ask about whether a driver has stolen the car or whether they have been using drugs, and they may arrest the driver based on their answers, their behavior, or the officer’s observations of objects inside the vehicle.

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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for illegal search and seizureEven though nearly everyone carries a cell phone with them at all times, it has become more and more clear in recent years that this practice exposes a great deal of our personal information. For those who may potentially face criminal charges, police officers or other law enforcement officials may be able to access location data and other information that can be used as evidence. This was made clear following the riots that took place in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. While investigating and prosecuting those who were involved in these incidents, the FBI has accessed multiple different types of personal data. This has raised questions about what types of information are available to law enforcement officials and whether the collection of this data violates people’s constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure.

Location and GPS Data and Search Warrants

Typically, if law enforcement officials wish to access an individual person’s data, such as the calls they have made or the text messages they have sent, they are required to obtain a search warrant. Even if police officers and federal officials cannot access a person’s phone, they may use a variety of other methods to collect data that can provide them with information about people’s location and communications. In some cases, they may request “tower dumps” from cell phone companies to track people’s locations by identifying everyone who connected to a certain cell tower at a certain date and time.

As the use of tower dumps has become more well-known, some courts have found that police must obtain warrants before accessing this type of cell-site location information (CSLI). However, officials may be able to use other methods to access a person’s data, including GPS location data and personal information gathered by other apps. 

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Hartford, CT criminal lawyer courthouse dogsMany people enjoy the companionship of pets, and dogs or other animals can provide a great deal of comfort to those who struggle with emotional issues. Because of this, therapy dogs are being used in a wide variety of situations, such as hospitals, schools, and, increasingly, courthouses. While some have advocated for the use of these animals to provide comfort to witnesses, others have raised concerns about how this practice could affect the fairness of criminal cases.

Courthouse Dogs and Sympathy for Witnesses

Some courts have begun the practice of using therapy dogs to assist witnesses. These dogs, which may be referred to as “courthouse dogs” or “facility dogs,” are professionally trained by an accredited organization to ensure that they can remain calm in a wide variety of locations and situations, including crowded public spaces, elevators and stairways, and the presence of children. Facility dogs are meant to provide quiet companionship to witnesses without disrupting courtroom proceedings. In Connecticut, courts have the discretion to permit dogs to provide comfort and support to testifying witnesses.

Advocates for the use of courthouse dogs believe that their use will help alleged victims and vulnerable witnesses have access to justice. These dogs may provide comfort to those who have allegedly faced traumatic experiences, such as sexual assault or domestic violence, helping them express themselves when testifying. Facility dogs may also provide benefits for children who have allegedly suffered abuse or neglect and people who are developmentally disabled.

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