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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for discretionary releaseWhile the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s lives in a variety of ways, it has impacted prison inmates disproportionately. For those who are held in correctional facilities, it can be difficult or impossible to follow social distancing recommendations, and inmates may be unable to avoid becoming infected. The risk of infection has caused concern about the ongoing safety of inmates, especially since they often do not have access to adequate medical care. Because of this, the number of discretionary releases being granted by Connecticut state officials has increased, and advocates are calling for more releases, including for people being held in pre-trial detention and those who have been charged with or convicted of low-level offenses.

What Is Discretionary Release?

A discretionary release occurs when an inmate is allowed to leave prison before their sentence has been completed. In many cases, this release will take the form of parole, which will require a person to meet certain conditions before being released, while also requiring them to follow certain rules and restrictions following their release. A parolee will be under the supervision of the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles. Violations of the terms of a person’s parole will result in their being taken into custody by a parole officer, and a hearing will be held to determine whether parole should be modified, extended, or revoked.

Discretionary Release During COVID-19

The state of Connecticut has increased the use of discretionary releases during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, the population of prisoners has decreased by about 25% since March of 2020. However, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have advocated for the release of more prisoners through pardons or other forms of discretionary release. They have also called on Governor Ned Lamont to use the emergency powers granted to him by the state’s constitution during a public health emergency, which allow the governor to take appropriate measures to protect the health and safety of inmates in state prisons.

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Hartford criminal law attorney for student cell phone searchesNearly everyone in the United States uses a cell phone on a daily basis, and these devices contain a great deal of personal information. This is especially true for young people, who are always finding new uses for technology. While most people have some expectations of privacy when using electronic devices, there are situations where a phone may be subject to a search by school officials or law enforcement. Students will want to understand their rights regarding cell phones, since information uncovered during a search could lead to serious penalties, up to and including criminal charges.

Use of Phone Decryption Technology by Schools

Students will often use their phones to send text messages and emails, take and share photos and videos, browse the internet, and communicate with others using social media. All of these activities can involve intimate details of a person’s life that they will want to keep private. If teachers or administrators suspect that a student has violated a school’s policies or committed unlawful acts, they may ask a student to unlock their phone and submit to a search. In some cases, schools may tell students that school policies require them to unlock their phones when requested, or they may impose penalties if students refuse to comply.

In a troubling trend, some schools have begun using technology to hack into students’ phones. Several school districts throughout the United States have purchased mobile device forensic tools that can be used to bypass passcodes and access information stored on cell phones. This technology is often used by the FBI and other law enforcement organizations to investigate terrorism or other serious crimes, and when it is used by school officials, it may result in improper access to a student’s private information.

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Hartford, CT criminal lawyer for illegal search and seizureWhile modern technology has improved people’s lives in many ways, it has also created concerns about privacy. Most people carry cell phones or other electronic devices with them everywhere they go, and the use of apps that track their location can leave a data trail that provides a great deal of information about their activities and behavior. In some cases, this data may be accessed by law enforcement officials who are looking to identify criminal suspects. Recently, the use of “geofence warrants” has come under scrutiny, and criminal defense attorneys and privacy advocates are fighting back against the improper collection of data during criminal investigations.

What Are Geofence Warrants?

“Geofencing” refers to drawing a boundary around a certain geographic area and identifying people within that area who have used electronic devices. When people use apps such as Google Maps, their location history is saved, and this data may be used to identify them at a later date. 

Over the past several years, law enforcement officials have begun issuing warrants to obtain location data for people who were in a certain area at the time that criminal activity allegedly occurred. Google has reported that warrants for this type of data increased by 1,500% between 2017 and 2018 and by another 500% between 2018 and 2019. As of the end of 2109, the company was receiving as many as 180 law-enforcement-related requests for information each week.

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Hartford domestic assault defense lawyerThe coronavirus pandemic has caused people and families throughout the United States to fear for their safety. While steps can be taken to minimize the risks of infection, these measures have led to a variety of other concerns, including increases in the number of reports of domestic violence

The difficulties that families are currently experiencing has led to increased stress in many households, as well as concerns about mental health and substance abuse. Couples who have struggled with relationship issues may have seen these problems become even worse due to being required to remain in close quarters together. Stress about financial problems caused by the loss of a job or difficulties addressing children’s educational needs while they are learning from home may also contribute to the breakdown of relationships between family members. 

These concerns may cause a tense situation to boil over, potentially leading to accusations of domestic assault or abuse. Advocates have reported that in recent months, calls reporting domestic violence have increased by 70%, and shelters for victims are currently at 150% capacity. This trend is expected to increase over the holiday season and during the new year. Those who are facing allegations of domestic violence will want to work with a criminal defense attorney to determine how they can address criminal charges, defend against a conviction, and preserve their family relationships and reputation.

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Hartford criminal law attorney for jury trialsThe coronavirus pandemic has affected the legal system in many ways, and some defendants have been left in limbo as they await a trial. To protect public safety, the courts in Connecticut have significantly reduced their capacity, and no criminal jury trials have been held in the state since March of 2020. While courts have taken protective measures and planned to begin holding trials, continued concerns about COVID-19 infections have delayed proceedings, and multiple cases involving court employees who have been infected have led some to call for the closure of courts for the time being. Because of this, many criminal defense attorneys are concerned about how this ongoing situation will affect the rights of defendants.

Delays in Trials Due to Difficulty Finding Jurors

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that those in the United States who are facing criminal charges have the right to a speedy, public trial before an impartial jury. Postponing criminal trials indefinitely would violate the rights of defendants, so courts have been working to determine how to resume these trials while still protecting the safety of everyone involved, including defendants, judges, attorneys, jurors, witnesses, and others who would be present in court.

Courts have taken steps to protect the safety of those who would be present during trials. These include requiring masks for everyone involved in a trial and following social distancing guidelines, as well as installing equipment to circulate clean air into courtrooms. However, the primary issue that is delaying trials is the difficulty of finding people who are willing to serve as jurors. Many people who have been contacted for jury service have not responded to summons, or they have asked to be excused because of concerns that they or their family members could be at risk of COVID-19 infections.

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