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East Hartford criminal defense attorneysWhen the police have reasons to believe that a person may have been involved with a crime, it is not uncommon for an officer to initiate a traffic stop in order for the officer to investigate a little closer. Court interpretations of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have held that traffic stops must be based on probable cause. This generally means that the officer must have seen the driver break a traffic law or observed indications that the driver was drunk, for example. But, what happens when once the driver is stopped? Can officers just decide to search the car to look for drugs, weapons, or other illegal items?

Probable Cause and Consent

Under the Fourth Amendment, courts have long required police officers to establish separate probable cause to justify a search of the vehicle during the traffic stop. In this context, “separate” probable cause means that the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the vehicle contains illegal items or evidence of criminal activity that is unrelated to the traffic violation for which the driver was stopped. Basic suspicion, including the driver’s reputation in the community or the time and location of the stop, is not usually sufficient to establish probable cause. Information from a tip, however, or the smell of drugs coming from the car could provide the probable cause the officer needs to conduct a search.

With all of this having been said, one of the most common ways for officers to get around the need for probable cause is to ask for the driver’s consent to search the vehicle. In many cases, the officer will ask directly, “Do you mind if I search your car? You don’t have anything to hide, right?” Other times, the officer may be more subtle, saying something to the effect of, “I’m sure it will amount to nothing, but you don’t mind if I have a quick look, do you?” If the driver gives his or her consent, the probable cause requirement no longer applies.

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juvenile, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyAt the moment, there is just one prison in the entire state of Connecticut for juveniles who commit crimes that are not serious enough for the “adult” court system. That prison, however, is in the process of closing, leaving many wondering what will happen to the juveniles currently being held there and those who commit such offenses in the future.

Secure Facility

The Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown is a high-security correctional facility designed to hold the most troubled boys in the state’s juvenile justice system. The juvenile delinquents committed to the center have not necessarily committed the worst crimes—those offenders are typically transferred to a standard or adult criminal court and prison system, as necessary. Instead, the boys are essentially the most in need of careful supervision, as many are dealing the effects of physical trauma, mental illness, drug abuse, and dysfunctional families.

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opioids, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyThe state of Connecticut is presently on pace to set a tragic record of more than 1,000 opioid-related deaths in 2017. If things continue on their current pace, 2017 will surpass last year’s record of 917 by a rather large margin. According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, an average of nearly three residents are dying from accidental drug overdoses every single day. While the word is not one that should be used lightly, but experts throughout the state and across the nation have rightfully identified the country’s opioid problem as a true “epidemic.”

Connecticut Governor Dannell P. Malloy has refused to sit quietly and let the issue go unaddressed. In fact, last month, he signed legislation for the fourth consecutive year aimed at curbing the crisis. This year’s new law may not be as far-reaching as those from the previous two years, it is a step in the right direction and was unanimously passed in both chambers of the state legislature.

A Progression of New Laws

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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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