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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney

The entire country has seen changes like never before due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly every aspect of life has been affected by this public health crisis -- even the criminal justice system. Across the country, court systems have been operating with the bare minimum staff in only a handful of open courthouses. However, even with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, some municipalities are planning to or have already begun to reopen. The state of Connecticut is one such municipality that has begun to reopen courthouses.

Barriers to Reopening

Reopening courthouses in the midst of a pandemic pose a challenge for the criminal justice system. COVID-19 is a virus that is mainly spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when you talk, sneeze, and cough. Being in close contact with people, which is closer than six feet apart from another person, increases the chances of transmitting the COVID-19 virus. In criminal matters, close contact with other people is often unavoidable. The accused are often subject to pre-trial detention in close quarters. Judges, lawyers, jury members, and other court staff, in addition to the accused, are subject to confined rooms with poor ventilation for most of the day, during which many people speak for extended periods of time.

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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for informant testimonyThe United States is a unique country in many ways. When it comes to the U.S. legal system, defendants are given quite a few inherent freedoms that many other countries do not provide. The way the legal system is set up here in our country, law enforcement officials can give individuals clemency for certain crimes in exchange for information. For example, police can choose to let a person walk free if they can offer up information about a crime committed by someone else. Prosecutors have the ability to recommend a lesser sentence or even drop criminal charges altogether if a defendant cooperates. One of the best examples of this is the practice of allowing prison inmates to testify against other inmates in exchange for various benefits.

The Issue With Jailhouse Informants

Recently, the use of jailhouse informants has become a hot topic. This has come in part because of the availability of new DNA testing technology that has helped quite a few people be declared innocent of the crimes they were accused of committing. Many of the people who have been exonerated were convicted because of testimony from jailhouse informants, whose intentions are not always the best. In many cases, informants are offered certain benefits for providing testimony, such as a reduction in their own sentences.

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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.

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Hartford criminal lawyer for cell phone evidenceIn today’s world, there are many technological advances that previous generations could not even dream of being possible. As the world of technology has advanced, so has the world of forensics. Advancements in technology have also allowed advancements in gathering evidence and processing that evidence for use in criminal cases. Cell phones are one such piece of technology that is used all over the world as a source of criminal evidence.

What Kind of Data Is Used as Evidence?

Cell phones -- especially smartphones -- gather, process, and store all kinds of data. From the text messages you send and receive, the photos you share, or the websites you visit, almost everything you do on your phone is stored and can be retrieved, even if you have deleted it. Some common types of data that can be retrieved from cell phones include:

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medical examiner, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyIn certain cases, the evidence that a crime has been committed is almost overwhelming. For example, a store’s broken window combined with missing merchandise are fairly strong indications that a burglary has taken place. Violent crimes often leave similar evidence in the form cuts, bruises, wounds, and other injuries that leave little doubt as to the nature of the behavior that caused them. Sometimes, however, the physical evidence available does not offer a very clear picture of what occurred, or, even that something illegal ever happened. Medical examiners tend to be at the center of such controversy, as was the case recently in Massachusetts when a physician in the employ of the state changed his opinion regarding the death of a 6-month-old baby girl.

The Tragic Death of an Infant

More than two years ago, in March of 2014, a 6-month-old baby girl died at Boston Children’s Hospital after lapsing into unconsciousness while under the care of a sitter. The medical examiner who conducted the girl’s autopsy studied the case for a full year before releasing a report that baby had died as a result of shaken-baby syndrome. The examiner pointed to spinal fractures, retinal injuries, and swelling in the child’s brain. As a result, the sitter was charged with child’s murder.

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Logo Image 50 Founders Plaza
East Hartford, CT 06108
Phone: 860-290-8690
Fax: 860-290-8697
We are available by appointment during evening and weekend hours, if necessary.

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