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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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 Connecticut criminal law attorney for facial recognition evidenceSince the 1990s, facial recognition technology has become more and more common. What was once just wishful and futuristic thinking is now present in our everyday lives in the United States. Home security devices use facial recognition to identify whether or not a visitor is someone you know. Some airports have implemented facial recognition software at check-in terminals to confirm your identity when you fly. Perhaps the most disturbing use of facial recognition technology is when it is used by law enforcement officials in criminal cases.

Federal Agencies Use Facial Recognition Technology

According to The Washington Post, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been using various states’ driver’s license databases to access photos of millions of Americans without their knowledge or permission. The FBI has long had access to biometric data such as DNA and fingerprints -- but that data was taken from criminal suspects. The majority of the estimated 640 million photos the FBI has access to are of Americans who have never been charged with a crime. Facial recognition searches have become a routine investigative tool by the FBI, but many have argued against the effectiveness of this relatively new technology.

Many Claim Facial Recognition Is Too Inaccurate to Be Used in Law Enforcement

Aside from the privacy concerns that many Americans and lawmakers have, there have also been concerns about the accuracy of facial recognition software in correctly identifying a person. The California American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conducted a study in which photos of the 120 members of the state legislature were run through facial recognition software marketed to law enforcement agencies. Results from the study concluded that one out of every five lawmakers (26 people) were incorrectly matched with people in a database of arrest photos. Even more concerning was the fact that nearly half of those who were incorrectly identified were people of color.

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Hartford assault charges defense lawyerCrimes committed against members of the LGBTQ community have risen slightly over the past three years. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), most hate crimes are based on bias toward race and religion, but the number of hate crimes (which may include assault or other violent crimes) based on sexual orientation has risen each year between 2014 and 2017. In 2017, there were 1,130 hate crime incidents reported to the FBI that were based on sexual orientation. In some cases, when the alleged offenders are prosecuted, their defense attorneys use what is called the “gay panic” defense. In recent years, this defense has been outlawed in many states, and Connecticut recently joined the group of states who do not consider the gay panic defense as a legitimate defense strategy.

What Is the “Gay Panic” Defense?

A person who allegedly committed assault or murder against a person may claim that they did so because of the alleged victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This type of strategy may involve claims of insanity or diminished capacity that occurred due to an interaction with a person who is gay or transgender. An alleged offender may also claim that they were provoked to commit a violent offense because of sexual advances made by the alleged victim. The gay panic defense is often seen as blaming the alleged victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity for the alleged offender’s actions. Those who oppose the use of this defense have stated that it may be used to justify and excuse the assault or murder of LGBTQ victims.

Lawmakers Seek to Ban the Gay Panic Defense

Currently, eight states have passed legislation to effectively ban the use of the gay panic defense, with five of those states passing the legislation in 2019. Connecticut’s governor signed a bill banning the use of this defense in June of 2019. He stated that this legislation was necessary because the use of this defense strategy implies that the lives of gay and transgender individuals are less important than the lives of others. Members of the U.S. Congress are currently attempting to introduce legislation that would ban this defense in federal court. Legislation banning the gay panic defense has also been introduced in seven other states and the District of Columbia.

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shutterstock_557897101Most people are familiar with the term “double jeopardy,” or they have probably at least heard of the concept. Protection against double jeopardy is written into the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that “no person shall...be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…” Basically, this provides U.S. citizens with protection against being tried more than once for the same crime. This issue typically arises when a person allegedly commits a criminal offense in more than one state or jurisdiction. Recently, the Supreme Court dealt with this issue by looking at whether or not those facing criminal charges could be tried for the same crime in both state and federal courts.

Recent Supreme Court Case Upholds Precedent

The case that made it to the Supreme Court dealt with a man who is currently a federal prison inmate. The Alabama man appealed to the Supreme Court after he was charged on both the state and federal level for possessing a gun after a previous felony robbery conviction. On the state level, he was sentenced to one year in prison. When tried for the same crime on the federal level, he was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison, a sentence that was to run concurrently with the other sentence.

The man appealed to courts until the case found its way to the Supreme Court. In a vote of 7 to 2, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the exception to the double jeopardy rule, citing the dual sovereignty doctrine. Only two justices opposed the ruling, stating that the exception should be reconsidered.

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Hartford defense attorney criminal justice system

For years, advocates have claimed that the criminal justice system in the United States is unjust toward certain groups of people. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one in three black men and one in six Latino men can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes, compared to only one in 17 white men. A majority of the country agrees that the U.S. criminal justice system needs to be reformed. One of the main ways of doing this is through the actions of prosecutors, who play a crucial role in the criminal justice process.

Bill Passes in Both CT House and Senate

A bill was recently passed in both the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives that will require more transparency when it comes to Connecticut prosecutors in the criminal justice system. The bill, which was passed with a rare unanimous vote in both the House and Senate, will require the state to create a public website to publish information such as demographic information about defendants that prosecutors do and do not prosecute, in addition to information about prosecutors’ actions on charging, diversionary programs, plea deals, and sentencing.

The Significance of Prosecutors

Many people believe that prosecutors hold the key to criminal justice reform in the United States. Prosecutors are responsible for many different decisions that are made during the criminal justice process. They determine whether or not a charge is changed or dropped, whether or not a plea deal is offered to a defendant, whether or not bail is recommended, how a case is investigated, and whether or not defendants get the opportunity to participate in diversionary programs, such as drug court.

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