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hartford computer crimes lawyerNearly everyone uses computer systems and electronic devices in their everyday lives, and there are many situations where a person could face criminal charges based on issues such as illegally accessing computer systems or using electronic information incorrectly. Cases involving computer crimes can be complex, and there are many different state and federal laws that may apply in these situations. A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may play a role in cases involving computer and internet crimes, and it may limit the types of charges that may be pursued by prosecutors.

Limits on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) of 1986 prohibits people from accessing a computer and obtaining information they are not authorized to access. While this law was meant to address unauthorized “hacking” of computer systems, courts had interpreted it very broadly, allowing prosecutors to pursue criminal charges in cases where a person had exceeded their authorized access. A person who was authorized to use a computer or network could potentially be prosecuted for using the system outside of what they had specifically been allowed to do. This meant that criminal charges could apply for a number of commonplace activities, such as using a work computer for personal purposes.

These issues were addressed in the case of Van Buren v. United States. This case involved a police officer who accepted money in exchange for performing an unauthorized search of a state license plate database. The officer had been convicted of a felony violation of the CFAA. In reviewing this case, the Supreme Court addressed whether the CFAA can be used to prosecute a person who was authorized to access a computer system but exceeded the scope of what they were allowed to do. The court determined that a broad interpretation of the CFAA would criminalize a number of common activities, such as minor violations of a website’s terms of service. 

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Hartford criminal defense lawyerMarijuana use has become more and more accepted over the past decade, and multiple states have chosen to legalize this substance. The state of Connecticut will soon be joining these ranks after Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill that will make marijuana legal for recreational use. Some of the bill’s provisions will go into effect as soon as July 1, 2021. In addition to affecting criminal cases involving drug charges, this new law may also play a role in cases involving juvenile crimes, probation violations, and clearing of criminal records.

Details of Connecticut’s New Marijuana Law

Starting on July 1, 2021, people over the age of 21 will be allowed to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis plant materials on their person or an equivalent amount of products containing marijuana. A person may also possess up to five ounces of marijuana in a locked container in their residence or that is locked inside the trunk or glove compartment of a vehicle. The law has also eliminated the criminal penalties for manufacturing, selling, or using drug paraphernalia related to marijuana, and it reduced the penalties for illegally manufacturing or selling marijuana. 

The law made a number of other changes that will affect criminal cases, including:

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hartford criminal defense lawyerThe Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives recently ended the 2021 legislative session, and multiple new laws were passed that will affect criminal cases in the state. While advocates for criminal justice reform have praised some of the changes that were made, they have identified several issues that they believe still need to be addressed. By working with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney, those who are facing criminal charges can ensure that the state’s laws will be applied correctly in their case.

New Laws Related to Drug Crimes, Domestic Violence, and Criminal Records

The laws passed by the Connecticut legislature address issues such as:

  • Clean slate - Convictions for non-violent misdemeanors and certain types of lower-level felonies will be erased from a person’s criminal record if they are not convicted of any other crimes for seven or 10 years after completing their sentence.

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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 criminal defense lawyerIn the United States, people expect the legal system to be open and honest. Legal documents filed in court and the decisions made in legal proceedings are made available to the public, providing people with an understanding of their rights and how the laws are applied in specific situations. However, one of the most important courts in the U.S. operates under a veil of secrecy. Even though its decisions affect the types of surveillance that law enforcement officials can use in criminal cases, these decisions are not always made available to the public. Criminal justice advocates have raised concerns about how this secrecy affects the civil liberties of people in the United States.

Decisions by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was created in 1978, and it was given the power to oversee the types of surveillance conducted by officials in matters related to national security. While the court initially had a narrow focus, authorizing a few hundred wiretaps each year, its powers were expanded significantly following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

This expanded role occurred at the same time that new forms of technology became available that allowed for mass surveillance of millions of people. As government officials have begun to collect data about people’s communications and activities, the court has authorized a number of programs that have affected people’s privacy rights. The FISC has allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect records of phone calls made within the United States and between the U.S. and other countries, including details about who made calls, when calls were made, and how long they lasted. It has also allowed government agencies to scan people’s emails and collect information about messages people have sent online. In many cases, these forms of surveillance have been authorized without the need to show probable cause or suspicion of criminal activity.

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