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Hartford criminal defense lawyerMarijuana use has become more and more accepted over the past decade, and multiple states have chosen to legalize this substance. The state of Connecticut will soon be joining these ranks after Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill that will make marijuana legal for recreational use. Some of the bill’s provisions will go into effect as soon as July 1, 2021. In addition to affecting criminal cases involving drug charges, this new law may also play a role in cases involving juvenile crimes, probation violations, and clearing of criminal records.

Details of Connecticut’s New Marijuana Law

Starting on July 1, 2021, people over the age of 21 will be allowed to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis plant materials on their person or an equivalent amount of products containing marijuana. A person may also possess up to five ounces of marijuana in a locked container in their residence or that is locked inside the trunk or glove compartment of a vehicle. The law has also eliminated the criminal penalties for manufacturing, selling, or using drug paraphernalia related to marijuana, and it reduced the penalties for illegally manufacturing or selling marijuana. 

The law made a number of other changes that will affect criminal cases, including:

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hartford criminal defense lawyerThe Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives recently ended the 2021 legislative session, and multiple new laws were passed that will affect criminal cases in the state. While advocates for criminal justice reform have praised some of the changes that were made, they have identified several issues that they believe still need to be addressed. By working with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney, those who are facing criminal charges can ensure that the state’s laws will be applied correctly in their case.

New Laws Related to Drug Crimes, Domestic Violence, and Criminal Records

The laws passed by the Connecticut legislature address issues such as:

  • Clean slate - Convictions for non-violent misdemeanors and certain types of lower-level felonies will be erased from a person’s criminal record if they are not convicted of any other crimes for seven or 10 years after completing their sentence.

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Hartford criminal defense lawyerThe actions of police officers in criminal cases have come under scrutiny in recent years. In many cases, criminal charges are based on evidence uncovered during police searches. While search warrants are usually required before police officers can search a person’s home or property, there are some situations where police have claimed that they are allowed to conduct searches without obtaining a warrant. Some recent rulings by the Supreme Court have limited the types of warrantless searches that police can perform, and this may affect the types of evidence that can be used against those who are facing criminal charges.

Warrantless Searches and Community Caretaking

In May 2021, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Caniglia v. Strom, in which a Rhode Island man’s weapons were confiscated by police officers. Following an argument between the man and his wife, police were asked to perform a wellness check, and they informed the man that if he agreed to a mental health evaluation, his legally obtained weapons would not be confiscated. However, while the man was receiving the evaluation, the officers entered his home and took his weapons, claiming that this was done for “safekeeping.”

The key issue in this case involved whether the officers were allowed to enter and search the man’s home without a warrant because they were performing “community caretaking” functions. In the past, police have been able to receive exceptions to the Fourth Amendment requirement to obtain a search warrant in cases where they were performing these types of functions. However, advocates for civil liberties have stated that “community caretaking” has not been well-defined, and even though this exception was originally meant to allow police to search a vehicle that had been impounded, it has been used in a wide variety of situations to justify searches of people’s homes.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney trial penalty

Being charged with any type of crime in the state of Connecticut can be a scary and anxiety-ridden experience for many people, especially if this is your first time being involved in the criminal justice system. Many people have an idea in their head of how the process works from watching movies and television shows, but the actual criminal prosecution process is much different. In fact, most cases involving criminal charges do not even go to trial. Many times, prosecutors will end up offering the defendant a plea agreement, which would require a guilty plea in exchange for a lesser sentence than they would receive if they dispute the charges. However, this has created a new issue, dubbed the trial penalty.

Understanding Trial Penalties

If you are formally charged with a crime, you will then have the option of pleading guilty or not guilty. A majority of the time, a “not guilty” plea will result in the prosecutor offering you a plea deal, which is an agreement that typically requires you to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence than what you would likely receive if you proceeded to trial. The difference between the sentences is often staggering, too, forcing defendants to take deals for fear of risking longer sentences.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney false confession

For decades, American citizens have expressed various concerns about the nation’s police force over things such as the disproportionate use of violence against people of color and allegations of officers shooting unarmed suspects. According to the latest information from the Washington Post, there are approximately 5,624 people who have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since 2015, on average about 1,000 each year. Because of that, we are now seeing many police stations across the country implementing new de-escalation and diversity training for officers. However, another widespread and concerning issue that has not been addressed in the same manner is officers who coerce or solicit false confessions from suspects of a crime.

False Confessions Are Not Uncommon

According to The Innocence Project, 375 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence for crimes that they did not commit. Of those cases, 102 cases or 27 percent were wrongfully convicted because of false confessions. Other sources have estimated that nearly $450 million has been paid out by state governments to defendants in false confession exoneration cases. 

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