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suicide, Connecticut criminal defense lawyerThroughout the United States, suicide is a serious yet under-discussed problem. Each year, more than 40,000 Americans succeed in taking their own lives, with countless more making one or more attempts. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for individuals between 15 and 34—only accidents claim more lives. For friends and family members of a suicide victim, the situation can be traumatic and life-changing, as they may feel like they have failed their loved one. Recently, however, a Massachusetts court ruled that a young woman who encouraged her boyfriend to kill himself must now serve at least 15 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

A Tragic Set of Facts

Three years ago, an 18-year-old man Massachusetts man committed suicide by filling his pickup truck cab with carbon monoxide in a store parking lot. As officials investigated the death, they found that the man’s girlfriend—a 17-year-old young woman—had been sending him messages via text and social media encouraging him to go through with his suicide plan. According to reports and court documents, the teen even allegedly told the young man to “get back in” when he got scared and got out of his carbon monoxide-filled truck.

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courtroom, Hartford defense lawyerIt is one of the basic tenets of American criminal law: a person charged with a crime has the right to face his or her accuser. In a criminal case, the accuser is usually the state or the federal government but the so-called “confrontation clause” of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees a criminal suspect the right to confront any witnesses against him or her as well. The provision was intended to prevent a defendant from being convicted on the basis of testimony or written evidence without the ability to challenge the witnesses’ statements in front of a jury.

When a witness appears to testify during a trial, prosecutors also have the opportunity to question him or her. Depending on the situation and the type of witness, it has long been a common practice for prosecutors to ask a witness if the person who committed the crime in question is present in the courtroom. The witness then points at the defendant and says something to the effect of “That’s him [or her].” It is intended to be a dramatic moment that hits home with the jurors.

Questions of Reliability

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asset forfeiture, Hartford criminal defense attorneyIt is rare for lawmakers from opposing parties to completely agree on a particular topic. When they do, the correct path is often so glaringly obvious that it transcends party lines and truly promotes the common good. Such was the case earlier this year when a bill regarding the forfeiture of assets seized in criminal investigations was put to a vote in the Connecticut legislature. In both the House and Senate, the measure was passed unanimously, and earlier this week, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill into law. The new law looks to protect the rights of citizens by requiring a conviction before the government can permanently confiscate a person’s assets and property.

Understanding Asset Forfeiture

Private assets are often seized by law enforcement and government entities when a person is arrested on criminal charges. If the assets are deemed to be related to criminal activity, the government may look to keep them permanently either as part of the criminal proceedings or in a separate matter in civil court. Prior to the passage of the new law, however, civil asset forfeiture did not require the property owner to be convicted first. Estimates suggest that Connecticut police departments and prosecutors generated nearly $18 million in asset forfeiture between 2009 and 2016, with nearly two-thirds coming from civil proceedings without requiring a conviction.

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bail, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyOver the last several years, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy has been at the forefront of criminal justice reform. He has championed a series of measures to create what he has called a “Second Chance Society,” which focuses on educating and rehabilitating criminal offenders rather than jumping right into severe punishments. Most of the Second Chance Society efforts have been directed toward helping low-level, non-violent offenders. Recently, however, Governor Malloy turned his attention to those who have not yet been tried or convicted, as he sought to improve the state’s bail system and reduce the population of local and county jails.

Pretrial Justice

When a person is arrested on suspicion that he or she committed a crime, the suspect must often wait several days before he or she is brought before a judge for an arraignment. In the meantime, many defendants are forced to sit in jail because they cannot afford to pay cash bail. The wait is often much longer between arraignment and trial. Even a few days in detention, however, can be problematic for low-income individuals, as they may be forced to miss work. The resulting instability can ultimately lead to a cycle of criminal behavior.

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cell phone, Hartford criminal defense attorneyIn 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the police could not force a person to allow his or her cell phone to be searched unless a warrant was obtained first—even if the person was arrested. Today, however, as technology has continued to advance, school students are more likely than ever to have mobile devices with them in the classroom. If a teacher suspects that a student is violating school rules on his or her phone or tablet, does the teacher have the right to check the student’s device? Connecticut could be about to answer that question as a proposed privacy measure is making its way through the state’s legislature.

Constitutional Protections

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable and improper searches and seizures of personal property. Over the years, case law has clarified what constitutes reasonable and proper searches, but such limitations, in general, only apply to law enforcement agencies and government entities.

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