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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney cell phone evidence

In today’s world, our cell phones have become a normal and natural part of our lives. Even just 20 years ago, most people did not own a mobile phone, and the ones who did own them had phones that were nowhere near as powerful as the ones we have today. Smartphones are convenient for many everyday tasks, but they also pose valid privacy concerns for users because of data collection from nearly every app on your device. In some cases, this data may even be used to arrest, charge, or even convict you of a crime in Connecticut.

How Is My Data Being Collected?

Many cell phone users’ personal data is being collected, stored, and sold off without their knowledge. You may wonder how this might happen -- the apps on your phone, in fact, are responsible for most of this data collection. Data trackers are hidden and embedded into many apps that are readily available on the App Store and Google Play. These trackers collect all kinds of information and personal data about you, sell it, and transmit it to various third parties, who are often advertisers. However, advertisers are not the only ones interested in personal data. Recently, it was discovered that location data was being sold to law enforcement to help detain undocumented immigrants. 

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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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Hartford criminal defense lawyer for digital evidenceTechnology is a common and often unavoidable presence in today’s world. Think about your own life; how often do you use your cell phone? What do you use your cell phone for? If you have ever used apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps to get from place to place, your location has been recorded. Even if you delete phone calls or text message conversations from your phone, the records of these conversations still exist. When it comes to criminal cases, technology has become a commonly-used source of evidence.

Cell Phones and Types of Evidence

Almost everything you do on your cell phone is recorded and stored. Information about any calls you make, any text messages you send, and any apps you use can all be accessed on your cell phone, even if you have attempted to delete those records. There are many different types of cell phone data that can be used in criminal cases, including:

  • History from your internet browser
  • Email messages (when they were sent, who they were sent to, and their content)
  • Call records, such as who you called and when
  • Text messages, what they contained, and who they were sent to
  • GPS and cell tower information, which can be used to attempt to determine the location of the phone

Defendants Often Have Trouble Retrieving Evidence

The United States criminal justice system was founded on the belief that those accused of committing a crime have certain rights. For example, the prosecution has the burden of proof in criminal cases, and prosecutors are required by law to reveal all evidence that they have against the defendant. Though these protections exist, defendants and their attorneys are often still at a disadvantage.

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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.

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charges, Connecticut personal injury attorneyIn today’s digitally connected world, virtually everyone has a voice that can be heard across the globe. Most people, however, do not really think of social media that way, largely limiting their posts and ideas to their friends, families, and followers. Sometimes, though, a social media post can cause a great deal of trouble for the poster, including the danger of being arrested. While it is not common for a person to be arrested for the things they say online, it can and occasionally does happen.

New Hampshire Man Arrested for Criminal Defamation

In May of last year, a man in New Hampshire was arrested by local police for comments he posted on Facebook. The man had not made any threats nor were his comments harassing anyone. Instead, the police allege that he violated the state’s law regarding criminal defamation—sometimes called criminal libel in other jurisdictions. The New Hampshire law makes it a criminal offense for a person to “purposely communicate to any person, orally or in writing, and information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.”

So, what was the false information that the man posted? It turns out that the man had simply posted a comment on an article published online by the local paper about a local police officer. His comment said that the officer “is the dirtiest most corrupt cop that I have ever had the displeasure of knowing.” He also called the local police chief a “coward” who “did nothing about it.” The man was arrested on charges of criminal defamation, but the case was dismissed after the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division criticized the arrest.

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