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Hartford criminal law attorney for student cell phone searchesNearly everyone in the United States uses a cell phone on a daily basis, and these devices contain a great deal of personal information. This is especially true for young people, who are always finding new uses for technology. While most people have some expectations of privacy when using electronic devices, there are situations where a phone may be subject to a search by school officials or law enforcement. Students will want to understand their rights regarding cell phones, since information uncovered during a search could lead to serious penalties, up to and including criminal charges.

Use of Phone Decryption Technology by Schools

Students will often use their phones to send text messages and emails, take and share photos and videos, browse the internet, and communicate with others using social media. All of these activities can involve intimate details of a person’s life that they will want to keep private. If teachers or administrators suspect that a student has violated a school’s policies or committed unlawful acts, they may ask a student to unlock their phone and submit to a search. In some cases, schools may tell students that school policies require them to unlock their phones when requested, or they may impose penalties if students refuse to comply.

In a troubling trend, some schools have begun using technology to hack into students’ phones. Several school districts throughout the United States have purchased mobile device forensic tools that can be used to bypass passcodes and access information stored on cell phones. This technology is often used by the FBI and other law enforcement organizations to investigate terrorism or other serious crimes, and when it is used by school officials, it may result in improper access to a student’s private information.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been felt by nearly every single person living in the United States at one point since the start of it all back in March. Even if you never actually got the coronavirus yourself, you likely had to alter your usual routine in some way because of the pandemic. For a length of time, Connecticut’s judicial system was running on minimum operations with the majority of courthouses closed to the general public to adhere to the Governor’s statewide shutdown order. As the courthouses have begun to reopen and the judicial system has begun to increase its caseload, many people are wondering when and how criminal jury trials will proceed. In many jurisdictions, cases that do not involve juries, such as divorces and other civil cases, have been successfully settled using virtual means. Some have wondered if that is paving the way for the inevitable: virtual criminal jury trials.

Issues with Virtual Criminal Jury Trials

Many of a courthouse’s day-to-day operations are not conducive to a post-pandemic world -- at least not yet. Now that the majority of Connecticut’s courthouses are open for staff and visitors, one of the only things that officials are scrambling to figure out is what to do about criminal jury trials. The possibility of virtual criminal jury trials taking place in Connecticut is becoming increasingly larger with each passing day of the pandemic. It is clear that we have the technology and the capability of conducting virtual jury trials, but virtual jury trials come with issues and downfalls of their own, such as:

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East Hartford, CT criminal law attorney search warrant

In today’s society, cell phones are commonplace when just 20 years ago, they were considered a luxury item. Now, cell phones have a plethora of uses other than just being for making phone calls. Think about what you use your cell phone every day. Many people use their smartphones to navigate from place to place, access the Internet, save photos and contacts, set calendars and schedules, and communicate with friends and family. All of that information is stored on your phone and can be viewed by mostly anyone who has access to the phone -- even police. In recent years, cell phones have become more valuable as evidence for law enforcement officers investigating a crime. However, some police professionals have run into opposition when attempting to retrieve evidence from password-protected phones. 

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules in Favor

Recently, such an issue made its way to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where the court ruled that a search warrant can indeed require a defendant to reveal his or her passcode to unlock his or her phone for law enforcement officers to retrieve evidence. The court ruled 4-3 that no existing state or federal laws provided enough protections for a passcode. This decision came from a case involving a man who claimed it was unconstitutional to force him to provide his passcode to police during their investigation into the man’s alleged involvement with aiding another man charged with drug trafficking.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney

Since March, states across the country have implemented varying degrees of protective measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont issued various executive orders shutting down many businesses across the state, including government operations, such as judicial matters. Connecticut courts have only been conducting what they consider to be Priority 1 business, such as certain criminal arraignments and emergency child custody matters.

Recently, a handbook was published on the guidelines and procedures to be followed for remote hearings conducted within the Connecticut judicial system. The goal of the courts is to gradually increase the amount of work that is taken on by court staff and attorneys through virtual means for the foreseeable future. While utilizing the technology that exists to conduct court business will help get through a backlog of cases, there have been concerns about issues that remote court hearings may pose.

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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 06108
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