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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 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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death, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyFor decades, drug dealers have faced serious criminal consequences if they were caught selling illegal substances like cocaine, heroin, prescription pills, marijuana or other drugs. Now, because of a disturbing increase in drug overdoses, those who sell drugs may be facing even more severe penalties.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for those under the age of 50. In 2016, overdoses were linked to the death of approximately 64,000 people in the U.S. Some states have already been able to legally charge dealers of drugs like cocaine or heroin with first-degree murder if the drugs they sold led to a person’s death through overdose. However, the proliferation of a new drug called fentanyl has caused legislators to sanction even stricter laws.

Fentanyl is a drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. It is often combined with heroin—sometimes without the dealer or buyer’s knowledge. Fentanyl is intended to be used for anesthesia or for managing chronic pain. When prescribed and monitored by a medical professional, it can be a beneficial drug, but when recreational users underestimate the amount of fentanyl they are consuming, it can be deadly. Fentanyl caused 20,100 deaths in 2016 in the United States alone. This represents a staggering 540% increase in overdose deaths caused by the drug in the last three years.

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marijuana DUI, Hartford criminal defense attorneyWhen you are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), it is reasonable to presume that you might be asked to submit to chemical testing for blood-alcohol content, or BAC. The most common form of testing is a breath test, commonly referred to as breathalyzer, which calculates the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood based on alcohol detected in a breath sample. In all 50 states, the legal limit for BAC (for a non-commercial driver over the age of 21) is 0.08 percent. A test that registers above the limit creates a presumption of DUI based on a quantitative standard.

Over the last several years, six states have instituted similar standards regarding the amount of marijuana in a driver’s system. With decriminalization and legalization efforts ongoing around the country and the implementation of medical marijuana programs in about two dozen states including Connecticut, many law enforcement officials believe that there needs to be a quantifiable way of determining that a driver is under the influence of marijuana. A new study from a very reputable source, however, suggests that the existing laws—along with those pending in other states—covering marijuana blood tests have no scientific basis, and even goes so far to recommend scrapping the statutes.

Major Concerns

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punishment rate, Hartford criminal defense lawyerAround the country, crime rates have dropped to their lowest levels in more than 50 years, yet the rate of imprisonment remains much higher than in previous decades. In addition, a new metric—called the punishment rate—has been developed which make the situation seem even more out of proportion. According to a recent study by a prominent research organization, it would seem that the efforts by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy to reform the state’s justice system and focus on rehabilitation are needed more than many may have realized.

Comprehensive Study

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released a study conducted as a part of its Public Safety Performance Project. The study sought to examine the way in which crime is dealt with across the nation, based on two separate measurements. While, at first glance, the metrics may seem very similar, they are, in fact, quite different. When used together, they paint a very serious picture about the harsh punitive nature of the American criminal justice system.

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