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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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Hartford weapons charges defense lawyerIn recent years, the use of deadly force by police officers has become a major concern for people throughout the United States. Police shootings occur regularly, and they often result in the deaths of suspects, including people who were unarmed or those who potentially could have been subdued by other means. In some cases, police are authorized to use deadly force against those who are wielding knives or other weapons. To avoid becoming a victim in these types of situations, those who could be arrested on criminal charges related to knives or other weapons will want to understand when police officers are permitted to use deadly force.

Recent Appeals Court Decision Illustrates When Deadly Force May Be Used

A case that was recently heard in the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals involved an incident in which police officers killed a man who was armed with a knife. The man committed “suicide by cop” in which he called 911 and falsely reported an assault by a man with a knife. When two officers arrived at the scene, he ran toward them while carrying a knife, and the officers opened fire. He was fatally wounded after being shot 10 times.

The man’s survivors pursued a civil rights lawsuit against the officers, but their case was dismissed by a district judge, who ruled that the officers’ use of deadly force was justified. The appeals court reviewed the case and looked at some of the key facts of the issue, including whether officers followed what is known as the “21-foot rule.” This is not an actual rule followed by police departments, but more of a guideline that states that a person carrying a knife or a similar deadly weapon may present a threat if they are within 21 feet of an officer, and this may justify the use of deadly force.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorneyIn recent weeks, tensions have been escalating in the United States between the country’s police force and its citizens, specifically among minority groups. There has always been a backlash against the tactics used by police, with many stating that the weapons and procedures used are too harsh and acts of brutality are too often aimed toward minorities and people of color. A recent instance where an Atlanta police officer fatally shot a black man, Rayshard Brooks, after the man grabbed a taser from the officer has reignited public concern over tasers and stun guns and their effectiveness as law enforcement tools.

In Connecticut, stun guns and tasers are referred to as electronic defense weapons and are actually classified as “dangerous weapons.” This also means that they are subject to certain rules and restrictions, as well as Connecticut residents who choose to own them. Similar to gun regulations, permits are required for anyone seeking to legally own a taser or stun gun. Anyone who does not comply with the state’s dangerous weapons laws faces criminal charges and consequences.

What Is an Electronic Defense Weapon?

A stun gun or electronic defense weapon is a device that was created to temporarily immobilize its targets. Stun guns have been used by law enforcement officers for decades, especially in situations in which suspects have been difficult or uncooperative. A stun gun has the ability to deliver 50,000 volts of electricity to a person, which courses through his or her body. When the weapon is used directly on a person, it typically only causes pain, similar to a shock. When the weapon is used and the probes are discharged, the voltage causes temporary paralysis, pain, and in some cases, death.

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Hartford criminal defense attorney for weapons offensesGun control has been a topic of immense concern and debate over the past few years. Due to the number of high-profile incidents of gun-related violence that have occurred throughout the U.S., state lawmakers have begun to consider implementing measures meant to prevent some of that violence. Connecticut was the first state in the nation to pass a “red flag” law in 1999 after a disgruntled worker at the Connecticut Lottery Corp. used a pistol and a knife to murder four employees before shooting himself. Since the law was passed, however, no changes have been made to it, prompting some to argue that the law has not kept up with modern times. To avoid facing potential criminal charges, gun owners should be sure to understand this law and how any potential changes could affect them.

What Are “Red Flag” Laws?

A total of 16 states and the District of Columbia have followed in Connecticut’s footsteps in implementing “red flag” laws, which are laws that take a preemptive approach to gun safety. Under these laws, anyone who is concerned that another person presents a danger to themselves or others can ask the court to temporarily remove that person’s firearms from their home or possession. In many cases, people come forward if they are concerned about suicidal thoughts expressed by a loved one, or they may ask the court to take action if a person has talked or joked about shooting someone.

The judge will determine whether or not the person is actually a threat to the safety of themselves or others and make a decision accordingly. If the judge approves the request, a court order known as a “risk warrant” will be issued, requiring the person to surrender their firearms for a specific period of time.

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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for deadly weapons chargesThe deadly shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT in 2012 shook the country and especially the state of Connecticut. Shortly after the tragedy, the state’s lawmakers enacted several new laws pertaining to firearms, one of which created what is known as the Deadly Weapon Offender Registry. This is a non-public registry, and those who have been convicted of criminal charges involving a deadly weapon are required to submit their personal information to the registry and maintain this registration for five years after their release from prison. While the registry functions similar to the sex offender registry, some are arguing that the registry should not be made public or should not exist at all.

Who Is Required to Register?

The current law states that any person who is convicted or found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect for a crime involving a deadly weapon is required to register within 14 days of being released back into the community. Connecticut law defines a deadly weapon as “any weapon, whether loaded or unloaded, from which a shot may be discharged, or a switchblade knife, gravity knife, bill, blackjack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.” There are 42 offenses for which convicted offenders must submit their information to the registry, including:

  • Carrying a handgun without a permit
  • Committing murder, assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, or burglary with a firearm
  • Committing a felony crime that involves threatening the use of a firearm
  • Criminal possession of a handgun
  • Theft of a firearm
  • Selling or transferring a handgun to an ineligible person
  • Possession of a sawed-off shotgun or silencer

Should the List Be Made Public?

Many people, including lawmakers, have questioned the effectiveness of the Deadly Weapon Offender Registry. Some say that the list should be made public, just like the sex offender registry, which can be accessed online. Others say that the weapons offender registry is used for police purposes only and would not serve any use to the public, except for vigilantes who might take matters into their own hands. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has opposed making the list public, since releasing this information would create significant privacy concerns for those on the list.

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