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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for police brutalityThe issue of police brutality and other forms of misconduct by police officers has been at the forefront of public debate over the past decade. These concerns have become even more prevalent in 2020 due to multiple incidents in which criminal suspects were killed by the police, sparking nationwide protests. Along with raising concerns about racial discrimination and the use of excessive force, advocates for criminal justice reform have noted that in many cases, incidents involving harm to suspects occur because police officers are ill-equipped to address emergency calls involving people who suffer from mental illnesses.

High Fatality Rates in Police Calls Involving Mental Illness

A number of recent studies have looked at cases in which police officers throughout the United States responded to situations involving mental health concerns, and they found some troubling results. Around one fourth of the cases in which a person was killed in an encounter with police officers occurred in situations where officers were responding to reports of “disruptive behavior” related to mental illness or substance abuse. In addition, people with untreated mental health issues are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other civilians, and police shootings that result in the death of a person with mental illness are 39% more likely to occur in small or mid-sized towns rather than large cities.

Police officers are trained to respond to potential threats, and they are authorized to use deadly force when they fear for their lives. Because of this, they may not be properly equipped to deal with those who are suffering from mental illness. If a person behaves erratically or unexpectedly, police officers are more likely to respond with force rather than attempting to deescalate the situation. 

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Hartford criminal law attorney for pardons and expungementRacial inequality is one of the many issues that have been on people’s minds in 2020. Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others not only because of these unnecessary deaths, but because the criminal justice system is unfairly biased against people of color. Black people are arrested, charged, and convicted of crimes at much higher rates than white people, and this has led to our current system of mass incarceration.

Even if a person is not convicted of a felony or does not end up in jail, criminal charges can have far-reaching effects on their lives. While Connecticut passed a “ban the box” law in 2017 that prohibits prospective employers from asking about a person’s criminal arrests, charges, or convictions on an application, background checks may still be performed during the hiring process, making it more difficult for those with a criminal record to find employment. A criminal record can also affect a person’s ability to find housing, pursue educational opportunities, or participate in children’s school activities.

All of this adds up to limited opportunities and ongoing problems for people of color who become involved in the criminal justice system. While white people are often able to move on from their past mistakes, Black or Hispanic people and other minorities usually do not have the same luxury, and they can end up paying the price for years after they are arrested or convicted. Because of this, advocates for criminal justice reform believe that more pardons should be issued to clear the criminal records of those who have completed their sentences.

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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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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorneyIn recent weeks, tensions have been escalating in the United States between the country’s police force and its citizens, specifically among minority groups. There has always been a backlash against the tactics used by police, with many stating that the weapons and procedures used are too harsh and acts of brutality are too often aimed toward minorities and people of color. A recent instance where an Atlanta police officer fatally shot a black man, Rayshard Brooks, after the man grabbed a taser from the officer has reignited public concern over tasers and stun guns and their effectiveness as law enforcement tools.

In Connecticut, stun guns and tasers are referred to as electronic defense weapons and are actually classified as “dangerous weapons.” This also means that they are subject to certain rules and restrictions, as well as Connecticut residents who choose to own them. Similar to gun regulations, permits are required for anyone seeking to legally own a taser or stun gun. Anyone who does not comply with the state’s dangerous weapons laws faces criminal charges and consequences.

What Is an Electronic Defense Weapon?

A stun gun or electronic defense weapon is a device that was created to temporarily immobilize its targets. Stun guns have been used by law enforcement officers for decades, especially in situations in which suspects have been difficult or uncooperative. A stun gun has the ability to deliver 50,000 volts of electricity to a person, which courses through his or her body. When the weapon is used directly on a person, it typically only causes pain, similar to a shock. When the weapon is used and the probes are discharged, the voltage causes temporary paralysis, pain, and in some cases, death.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorneySince the 1990s, many states across the country have legalized marijuana for medical use, but it was not until just a few years ago that recreational marijuana was legalized. In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first two states to legalize the recreational sale, possession, and use of recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been nine other states that have legalized recreational marijuana; however, it still remains illegal on the federal level. One of the biggest oppositions to fully legalizing marijuana is the fear that legalization will increase crime. However, just the opposite is one of the reasons people want to legalize it; they think it will reduce crime.

Studies Show Crime Rates Are Either Unaffected or Decreased

According to the Reason Foundation, studies have been conducted in various states that have legalized recreational marijuana to determine what effect, if any, the legalization has had on the crime rate. In Washington state, the number of adults over the age of 21 who were arrested for marijuana possession fell by 98 percent, while the number of those under the age of 21 convicted of possession fell by 50 percent. In Colorado, the number of cases of illegal marijuana cultivation, distribution, and possession fell by 85 percent. Other states such as Alaska and Oregon have seen similar situations.

The Reason Foundation also states that jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana for medical uses have also seen a decrease in the number of opioid overdoses. Other studies have found that property crime has not increased as some people feared it would. In fact, property crime actually fell in neighborhoods in Colorado that opened marijuana dispensaries.

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