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Hartford Criminal LawyerIn the United States, the criminal justice system often imposes harsh penalties on those who are convicted of crimes. Violent crimes and other serious offenses may result in prison sentences that last for multiple decades. Criminal justice reform advocates have argued that these types of sentences are overly harsh, especially for offenders who committed crimes at a young age. Prior to the age of 25, people's brains are still developing, and they may not fully understand the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, mistakes made during a person's youth can result in penalties that affect them for the rest of their lifetime.

As advocates look to make changes to how criminal offenses are prosecuted and how people are sentenced, they are also seeking to help people who have served long sentences and taken steps toward rehabilitation. Some public officials have taken action to provide relief for these prisoners and allow them to be released. In Connecticut, commutations have become available for more prisoners. However, these policies have been questioned by the state's lawmakers, and adjustments may be made to how these types of cases will be handled in the future.

Issues With Connecticut's Commutation Policy

Connecticut law allows the Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant commutations to prisoners, allowing those who have served time in prison to be released before serving the full sentence put in place during a criminal case. In 2021, Carleton Giles, the chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, put a new policy in place that expanded the availability of commutations. Prior to this change, around one to two commutations were granted each year. In 2022, 71 prisoners received commutations, and an additional 25 commutations have been granted in 2023.


Hartford Criminal LawyerCivil asset forfeiture is a controversial practice in which police officers or other law enforcement officials seize money or other property from individuals suspected of criminal activity. In many cases, these forfeitures are performed without a court order or a criminal conviction. This form of forfeiture has been widely criticized for its lack of oversight and accountability. In recent years, there have been calls for reform to the ways civil asset forfeitures are conducted by law enforcement officials across the country. Now, Congress may be taking action to limit these practices and ensure greater transparency and fairness in how they are used.

Potential Reforms to Civil Forfeiture Laws

People who are convicted of crimes will often be required to turn over any money or property they earned through illegal activity. These criminal forfeitures require prosecutors to meet a certain burden of proof. Civil asset forfeitures, on the other hand, may be performed even if a person is never arrested or charged with a crime. Law enforcement officials may seize any money or property that they believe to be connected with criminal activity. To recover their property, the owner will have the burden of proof to show that they are innocent.

Many asset forfeitures are performed by federal agencies, and a large percentage of cases are handled administratively rather than through the legal system. In cases involving non-judicial forfeitures, the agencies that seized money or property will determine whether assets should be forfeited. Because agencies can keep assets that are forfeited, they have an incentive to rule against people who are seeking to recover their assets.


Hartford Criminal Law AttorneyThere are a variety of techniques that criminal investigators and prosecutors may use to identify suspects and attempt to prove their guilt. While these techniques are referred to as "forensic science," they are often very unscientific. Unfortunately, far too many criminal convictions are based on "junk science" that does not hold up to scrutiny and does not accurately prove that a person committed a crime. Bite mark analysis is one of the most thoroughly debunked forms of flawed forensic science, but some people who were wrongfully convicted based on this type of evidence are still struggling to protect their rights and receive fair treatment in the criminal justice system.

Problems With Bite Mark Evidence

The idea behind bite mark evidence may seem sound: if people have unique dental patterns, then it should be possible to identify a perpetrator based on the impressions left behind by their teeth on a victim's body. However, analysis of bite marks is unreliable due to multiple issues:

  • Dentition (the arrangement of people's teeth) is not necessarily as unique as it may seem. While the specific arrangement of teeth in a person's mouth may be notable, there is no scientific evidence showing that dentition is unique to each person. Dental patterns are not the same as fingerprints or DNA, and multiple people may have similar dentition.


Hartford Weapon Crime LawyerThe Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to keep and bear arms. While there have been debates over the extent of this right, it generally allows people to possess and use firearms, as long as they do so within the bounds of the law. However, even though organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) have fought to expand gun rights and prevent the government from limiting people's ability to own and carry firearms, they have failed to address one specific area in which these rights may not apply. People who have used certain types of drugs or who have allegedly committed drug crimes may be prohibited from possessing firearms, and this is an ongoing area of concern for many criminal defendants.

Police Shooting Highlights Issues With Gun Rights of Drug Users

While the NRA has sought to prevent restrictions on the ownership of guns by most people, it has notably failed to address prohibitions on firearm possession by people who have used drugs. Federal laws state that people who are "unlawful drug users" or who are addicted to controlled substances are prohibited from possessing or receiving firearms or ammunition. While this law has been on the books since 1968, it was updated by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022, which extended the prison sentence a person could face for committing this offense from 10 to 15 years.

There are a number of concerns about how this law affects people's rights to own firearms. While many believe that it is necessary to restrict gun rights for convicted felons or others who are considered to be dangerous, it may not make sense to apply the same restrictions to casual drug users. This issue has become more notable as the use of marijuana has been made legal in many parts of the United States. Since marijuana is still considered to be an illegal controlled substance by the federal government, people who use this drug and own or possess firearms may be in violation of federal law. This has led to a ban on gun ownership for some people who use medical marijuana or who are allowed to use recreational marijuana based on state laws.


Hartford Criminal LawyerCriminal justice reform has become a focal point in contemporary American society, with a growing consensus that the system is in dire need of an overhaul. At the heart of this conversation lies a pressing issue impacting the lives of thousands of individuals who were convicted of crimes at a young age and subsequently saddled with lengthy prison sentences. With advancements in neuroscience research shedding light on the cognitive development of adolescents and the role this can play in criminal behavior, there is a mounting call to re-examine sentences for youthful offenders and explore alternative paths toward rehabilitation.

Advocates Call for Limits on Sentences and Second Looks for Youthful Offenders

In many cases, young people who are convicted of crimes face harsh sentences that limit the possibility of rehabilitation and prevent them from being able to be released and re-integrate into society. In recognition of the fact that young people's brains are still developing, which can limit their ability to understand the consequences of their actions, advocates are seeking to place limits on sentences for youthful offenders, such as by prohibiting life sentences without the possibility of parole for people under a certain age. They are also advocating for laws that allow sentences to be reviewed after a certain period of time to determine whether parole or other options may be available.

A recent case in Rhode Island illustrates the issues that youthful offenders often face in these situations. Gahlil Olivera, who was charged with offenses related to the murder of a state lawmaker's son, was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to life in prison, as well as a consecutive 40-year sentence. After serving more than 25 years, Mr. Olivera has sought relief and claimed that the original sentence was excessive.

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