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Connecticut criminal defense attorneyOver the last few years, the issue of excessive force by police officers has become one of national focus and attention. In many circles, the phrase “police brutality” is used instead of “excessive force.” Following several high-profile situations caught on camera in which criminal suspects died in interactions with the police, lawmakers in Connecticut decided it was time to take definitive action.

On October 1, 2020, a series of new laws took effect throughout the state. These new statutes have been referred to in reports as “police accountability laws” because they address various types of behaviors by police officers. One of the new laws directly pertains to the use of excessive force by the police and the duty of officers to intervene when they witness the use of excessive force.  

Connecticut Police Academy Issues Guidance Memo

A week before the new laws went into effect, Karen Boisvert, the Administrator of the Connecticut Police Academy, issued a general notice to law enforcement officers across the state. The notice was addressed to police chiefs, training officers, protective services agencies, and resident troopers. The guidance notice summarized the portion of the statute that pertains to an officer’s use of force and laid out the expectations for all officers.

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East Hartford criminal defense attorneysWhen the police have reasons to believe that a person may have been involved with a crime, it is not uncommon for an officer to initiate a traffic stop in order for the officer to investigate a little closer. Court interpretations of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have held that traffic stops must be based on probable cause. This generally means that the officer must have seen the driver break a traffic law or observed indications that the driver was drunk, for example. But, what happens when once the driver is stopped? Can officers just decide to search the car to look for drugs, weapons, or other illegal items?

Probable Cause and Consent

Under the Fourth Amendment, courts have long required police officers to establish separate probable cause to justify a search of the vehicle during the traffic stop. In this context, “separate” probable cause means that the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the vehicle contains illegal items or evidence of criminal activity that is unrelated to the traffic violation for which the driver was stopped. Basic suspicion, including the driver’s reputation in the community or the time and location of the stop, is not usually sufficient to establish probable cause. Information from a tip, however, or the smell of drugs coming from the car could provide the probable cause the officer needs to conduct a search.

With all of this having been said, one of the most common ways for officers to get around the need for probable cause is to ask for the driver’s consent to search the vehicle. In many cases, the officer will ask directly, “Do you mind if I search your car? You don’t have anything to hide, right?” Other times, the officer may be more subtle, saying something to the effect of, “I’m sure it will amount to nothing, but you don’t mind if I have a quick look, do you?” If the driver gives his or her consent, the probable cause requirement no longer applies.

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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 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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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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