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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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Connecticut criminal law attorney for defendant rightsNobody likes it when other people are not truthful with them. Most people value honesty, and they believe they can tell when someone is lying. However, spotting lies is often much more difficult than one would expect, and even so-called experts who study human behavior have a poor track record of determining when people are not telling the truth in real-world situations. While the inability to recognize lies can be troublesome in people’s daily lives, this issue becomes even more serious when a person is facing criminal charges. Law enforcement officials often build cases against suspects based on their perceptions of whether a person is telling the truth, and during a trial, a judge or jury may base their decisions on whether they find a defendant or a witness to be trustworthy. People’s biases play a significant role in these cases, and this can lead to unjust results.

Research Demonstrates the Difficulty of Detecting Lies

There are a variety of ways that “experts” believe they can recognize when a person is lying. Some believe that people’s “microexpressions,” such as an inadvertent raising of the eyebrows or a slight upturn of the corner of the mouth, betray a person’s true feelings when they are making untrue statements. Others look at a person’s body language and claim that actions such as shrugging the shoulders, shifting the legs, or looking away from a person while speaking are indications of lying.

Some researchers have stated that they have high success rates of detecting lying when performing studies. However, the experiments conducted in laboratories are very different from real-life situations, and outside the lab, experts are usually unable to replicate these results. The average person is even less likely to accurately detect lies; one study found that people were only able to detect lies 54% of the time, which is only slightly better than if they had made guesses based purely on chance. This is true even for people such as police officers or judges who are supposedly experienced in dealing with people who lie. Studies have found that these professionals are no better at detecting deception than anyone else.

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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for false confessionsThose who are accused of committing crimes will often be unsure about their rights and the procedures followed when they are arrested and questioned by police officers. Unfortunately, this puts many people at a serious disadvantage, and they may say or do things that could be used against them in a criminal case. In far too many cases, police officers manipulate suspects into confessing to crimes that they did not commit, leading to convictions and lengthy prison sentences for those who are innocent. 

It is impossible to know how many people throughout the United States have been convicted based on false confessions. However, The Innocence Project, which has used DNA evidence to exonerate hundreds of people who have been wrongfully convicted, reports that false confessions were a factor in 29% of these cases. Those who are facing criminal charges or accusations will want to be sure to understand their rights and the ways they can avoid incriminating themselves.

Police Officers Are Allowed to Lie to Suspects

In most cases, false confessions occur because police officers mislead suspects or tell outright lies. The “Miranda rights” that protect suspects in the United States allow a person to decline to speak to police officers, while also giving them the right to have an attorney present during an interrogation. However, while police officers are required to inform suspects of these rights, they are not restricted from making misleading or false statements during an interrogation.

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Connecticut criminal law attorney for jury trialsDue to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and state courts in Connecticut have once again delayed the date when jury trials can resume. State trials had previously been scheduled to resume in November of 2020, but they were rescheduled to December 31, and following another delay, the dates for when they can resume are currently uncertain. Federal trials had been scheduled to resume on February 1, 2021, but that date has been delayed to May 3. These delays mean that those who are awaiting a trial on criminal charges will be forced to wait longer until their cases can be resolved. 

To address these delays, courts in some states have taken steps to conduct trials virtually using video conferencing software and other online tools. However, many criminal defense attorneys and criminal justice advocates have raised concerns about these types of trials, since they present a number of issues that may affect a person’s right to receive a fair trial.

Problems With Online Trials

To avoid the risks of conducting trials in person, video conferencing apps such as Zoom may be used, allowing attorneys, defendants, jurors, and other personnel to participate in a trial from a remote location. However, this presents a number of concerns related to the procedures that are followed during a trial and the ability of all parties to participate.

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East Hartford criminal defense lawyer for collateral consequencesMost people understand that breaking the law can result in a variety of penalties. A conviction on criminal charges can result in large fines, a prison sentence, and other punishments. However, what many people may not realize is that criminal offenders will often face a lifetime of additional consequences, even after they have fully completed their sentences. A criminal record can place a number of restrictions on a person, and because of this, many convicts struggle to maintain stability in their lives and avoid additional criminal activities. Criminal justice advocates are working to bring people’s attention to this issue and help those who have paid their debt to society successfully reintegrate into their communities.

Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

There are penalties associated with different types of criminal convictions, and these can range in severity depending on whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the circumstances of their alleged crime, and whether they have any previous convictions. In addition to these penalties, offenders may face a variety of “collateral consequences” after serving their sentence and being released. 

Advocates have identified more than 45,000 different types of collateral consequences that affect convicts throughout the United States. In Connecticut, these consequences include:

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