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apartment, fourth amendment, Hartford criminal defense attorneyIn 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in Florida v. Jardines, a case that involved the presence of a drug-sniffing dog on the porch of a suspect’s home without a warrant. The dog’s behavior on the porch and around the home suggested to law enforcement officers that there were illegal drugs inside the home. Based on the dog’s alert, the police obtained a warrant, searched the home, and arrested the suspect for marijuana trafficking. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the area “immediately surrounding and associated with home is part of the home for Fourth Amendment purposes,” and that the introduction of the drug-sniffing dog with a warrant based on probable cause was a violation of the owner’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Precedent for Apartments?

From a practical standpoint, the high court’s ruling in Jardines applies fairly easily to single family dwellings and duplexes that share very little common area. But do the same Fourth Amendment rights apply to those who live in apartments, condos, and other homes with shared hallways and public spaces? In the federal court system, circuits around the country have been divided on the issue, which may be an indication that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately need to put the matter to rest. Meanwhile, the Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to rule on a case very similar to Jardines, but that involved a drug-sniffing dog in the common hallway of an apartment building in Hartford County.

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forensic evidence, Hartford criminal defense attorneyEarlier this year, a judge from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote an opinion that directly challenged a common practice in criminal courtrooms around the country. Issuing a concurring opinion in the appeal of a murder conviction against a 36-year-old D.C. man, Associate Judge Catharine Easterly wrote that claims by forensic experts that a bullet or shell casing can be unequivocally matched to a particular weapon lack a sound scientific basis and should not be permitted in criminal trials.

Thousands of Convictions

Anyone with any interest in criminal investigations, including readers of mystery thrillers and those who watch crime scene procedural dramas on television, can probably explain with reasonable accuracy the method used to match a bullet or shell casing to a particular firearm. When a slug or shell is found at the scene of a murder or other violent crime, forensic professionals then look for a suspect weapon. After firing the weapon, the technician compares bullets and shells known to have been fired by the gun with those found at the crime scene. If the markings, scratches, and scrapes on each slug or shell match one another, the technician concludes—and testifies—that they must have been fired by the same gun. Such testimony has contributed to the conviction of countless thousands of violent offenders.

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justice reform, confidential trials, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyOver the last few years, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has certainly demonstrated his commitment to criminal justice reform throughout the state. Supporters and critics alike have acknowledged his efforts in allowing the justice system to focus on corrective action and saving the harshest penalties for the most violent and dangerous offenders. In a speech last month at the University of Connecticut School of Law in Hartford, the Democratic governor outlined additional plans to continue in that vein in the coming months. For some, however, Malloy’s proposal for confidential trials for some offenders push the limits of reform just a little too far.

Juveniles and Young Adults

There is a growing amount of research that suggests that human brain is not fully formed until a person reaches his or her mid-20s on average. The age of majority—and the age at which virtually all criminal defendants are treated as adults—in most jurisdictions is only 18. Thus, science seems to indicate, that the maturity difference between and 18-year-old and a 25-year-old is significant, especially related to criminal penalties and rehabilitation. One of Governor Malloy’s stated intentions is to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to age 21, creating additional opportunities for reform.

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shaken baby syndrome, child abuse, Connecticut Criminal Defense AttorneyOver the last two decades, the phrase “shaken baby syndrome” has entered the modern medical lexicon as a way of describing head injuries sustained by an infant, presumably as the result of physical abuse. Allegations of abuse are usually focused on the child’s parents or caregivers, and, in most cases, it would seem that the symptoms could not possibly have been the result of anything else. A growing number of medical professionals, however, including one whose testimony provided the cornerstone of a landmark shaken baby trial in 1997 are beginning to question the assumption that all such symptoms are the result of criminal abuse.

Abusive Head Trauma

While shaken baby syndrome has been a recognized diagnosis for a number of years, its colloquial-sounding name has been replaced by many professionals with the more clinical “abusive head trauma.” Its symptoms are usually threefold: swelling of the brain, bleeding on the surface of the brain, and bleeding behind the eyes. Known as the triad, these symptoms alone have been accepted as evidence of criminal abuse or violence, despite the lack of accompanying bruises, contusions, or broken bones.

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pistol permit, gun laws, Connecticut Criminal Defense LawyerAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 33,000 deaths around the country each year are related to firearms. Considering such statistics, combined with the seemingly endless stream of high-profile shootings every few weeks, it should come as little surprise that the state of Connecticut and other jurisdictions take their gun control laws very seriously. A recent decision by a state Superior Court, however, suggests that following the letter of such laws may not be enough to keep some gun owners out of trouble.

Request to Show a Permit

A case before the Superior Court this past spring arose from an incident in 2013 when two men were walking on a public boardwalk openly carrying loaded handguns. A local police officer stopped the men and requested to see their permits. One of the men immediately complied, but the other refused, despite truthfully stating he had the permit on his person, later citing the officer’s lack of reasonable suspicion. The man was subsequently charged with interfering with police and had his permit revoked. The man successfully applied for reinstatement of his permit, a decision that was appealed to the Superior Court by the Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP).

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