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Hartford criminal law attorney for jury trialsThe coronavirus pandemic has affected the legal system in many ways, and some defendants have been left in limbo as they await a trial. To protect public safety, the courts in Connecticut have significantly reduced their capacity, and no criminal jury trials have been held in the state since March of 2020. While courts have taken protective measures and planned to begin holding trials, continued concerns about COVID-19 infections have delayed proceedings, and multiple cases involving court employees who have been infected have led some to call for the closure of courts for the time being. Because of this, many criminal defense attorneys are concerned about how this ongoing situation will affect the rights of defendants.

Delays in Trials Due to Difficulty Finding Jurors

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that those in the United States who are facing criminal charges have the right to a speedy, public trial before an impartial jury. Postponing criminal trials indefinitely would violate the rights of defendants, so courts have been working to determine how to resume these trials while still protecting the safety of everyone involved, including defendants, judges, attorneys, jurors, witnesses, and others who would be present in court.

Courts have taken steps to protect the safety of those who would be present during trials. These include requiring masks for everyone involved in a trial and following social distancing guidelines, as well as installing equipment to circulate clean air into courtrooms. However, the primary issue that is delaying trials is the difficulty of finding people who are willing to serve as jurors. Many people who have been contacted for jury service have not responded to summons, or they have asked to be excused because of concerns that they or their family members could be at risk of COVID-19 infections.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, people across the country have been advocating for the release of some of the inmates in the prisons and jails across the country who are either unable to post bail or who do not pose a risk to the community or who have been incarcerated for low-level offenses. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads easily through respiratory droplets when people are in close contact with one another. Prison conditions make this an ideal environment for COVID-19 to run rampant among populations, making it a concern for many. According to the Marshall Project, there have been more than 102,000 COVID-19 cases among the prison population as of August 18. The pandemic affected every aspect of life, but it affected prison systems exceptionally so, with issues reaching into the Connecticut Department of Corrections.

Mental Health Services Have Suffered

One of the biggest issues that the prison system has faced during the pandemic has been figuring out how to manage the mental health needs of the current and incoming inmates while maintaining safety measures. Throughout the pandemic, mental health services available to inmates have been limited and routine elective outpatient psychotherapy was suspended for most inmates.

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Hartford domestic violence defense attorneySince late March, the state of Connecticut, much like the rest of the country, has been in lockdown. The state’s stay-at-home order has prevented certain non-essential businesses from conducting in-person operations, and people may only leave their homes to perform essential tasks. For some families, this order has kept them safe. However, for families where domestic violence is a concern, this order may not have had the same effect. Connecticut domestic violence activists are concerned that victims are unable to receive the services they need, and those who are seeking protection or who need to defend against accusations of domestic violence may face difficulties in having their cases heard in court.

Has the Pandemic Increased Domestic Violence Calls?

According to the president and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), calls to police regarding domestic violence increased by around 52 percent in early April of this year when compared to a similar period of time in early March. However, some law enforcement reports show that family violence calls decreased in the first two weeks of April 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. Municipal and state police reported that there were 495 family violence calls placed in the first half of April, compared to 519 calls placed during the same period in 2019.

The pandemic has also affected the services available for victims. The state of Connecticut only has 227 licensed emergency beds for domestic violence victims, and these are now almost completely full. Thanks to a $15,000 grant from an anonymous donor, hotel rooms have been provided for an additional 29 victims.

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Connecticut quarantine violation lawyer coronavirus COVID-19The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States is increasing by the day, and some states have started to take more serious measures to prevent the spread of the infection. A majority of the states in the country have some sort of quarantine or stay-at-home order that prohibits people from leaving their homes except for work or travel that is deemed “essential.” In an unprecedented development, some states have even begun to implement coronavirus checkpoints to screen travelers as they come in and out of the state. Those who are planning to travel should be sure to understand their rights and be aware of the potential criminal consequences they could face for a violation.

Checkpoints Intend to Stop Spread of Coronavirus

Some states are stopping all vehicles that have out-of-state license plates and requiring them and their passengers to sign a form promising that they will self-quarantine for 14 days. Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas are also requiring travelers to provide an address where they will quarantine and a warning that they could be subject to an unannounced follow-up visit from public health officials at any time. Those who violate the quarantine requirements could face fines or even criminal charges.

States are still allowing travelers to enter and have not denied anyone entrance, though some smaller communities have. The Florida Keys and the Outer Banks in North Carolina have begun to deny non-residents entry into their communities. Everyone who tries to get into these communities is asked for their ID. Unless they have a local address or other proof of residency, they are denied entry.

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Hartford criminal defense lawyer coronavirus COVID-19The United States has quickly become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of cases surpassing even China, the country where the virus originated. As of April 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were more than 600,000 cases in the U.S., with more than 24,000 related deaths. Because of the ability of the virus to spread so rapidly, states have been doing what they can to curb the spread. Recently, more individuals have become concerned with the prison population and how states are taking measures to protect inmates.

Problems With Prisons and COVID-19

The CDC has issued certain guidelines for people to follow to decrease their risk of contracting COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. These guidelines include social distancing, meaning keeping a distance of at least six feet between yourself and others, wearing cloth masks to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading, and frequent and thorough hand washing with warm water and soap. In prison, many of these guidelines are impossible to adhere to. Because of this, the number of inmates and correctional workers who have tested positive for the virus is increasing. In Connecticut, there are currently 166 inmates and 104 staff members who have tested positive for the virus.

Connecticut Still Has No Official Plans for Inmate Release

In light of this, the state of Connecticut has still not released an official plan for inmate release. However, some inmates have been released from custody, according to information from Rollin Cook, the Department of Corrections commissioner. Cook stated that the inmate population in Connecticut has dipped below 12,000, the first time it has done so in 25 years. He also stated that the releases have not been mass releases, but releases have been limited to inmates who are elderly or have medical conditions that cause them to be considered high risk.

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