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Hartford criminal defense lawyer coronavirus COVID-19The United States has quickly become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of cases surpassing even China, the country where the virus originated. As of April 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were more than 600,000 cases in the U.S., with more than 24,000 related deaths. Because of the ability of the virus to spread so rapidly, states have been doing what they can to curb the spread. Recently, more individuals have become concerned with the prison population and how states are taking measures to protect inmates.

Problems With Prisons and COVID-19

The CDC has issued certain guidelines for people to follow to decrease their risk of contracting COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. These guidelines include social distancing, meaning keeping a distance of at least six feet between yourself and others, wearing cloth masks to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading, and frequent and thorough hand washing with warm water and soap. In prison, many of these guidelines are impossible to adhere to. Because of this, the number of inmates and correctional workers who have tested positive for the virus is increasing. In Connecticut, there are currently 166 inmates and 104 staff members who have tested positive for the virus.

Connecticut Still Has No Official Plans for Inmate Release

In light of this, the state of Connecticut has still not released an official plan for inmate release. However, some inmates have been released from custody, according to information from Rollin Cook, the Department of Corrections commissioner. Cook stated that the inmate population in Connecticut has dipped below 12,000, the first time it has done so in 25 years. He also stated that the releases have not been mass releases, but releases have been limited to inmates who are elderly or have medical conditions that cause them to be considered high risk.

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Connecticut criminal defense lawyer coronavirus COVID-19For the past couple of months, the world has been battling COVID-19, a virus that led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a pandemic for the first time in history. Worldwide cases have reached more than 600,000, while the number of cases in the United States has topped 160,000. COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, is a disease that causes respiratory illness, characterized by flu-like symptoms along with a cough, chest tightness, and/or shortness of breath. Most people recover from the disease without complications, but those with underlying health conditions or those who are over the age of 60 are more likely to develop serious complications.

The spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. has prompted many state and local officials to halt non-essential business operations. Some locations have issued stay-at-home orders, prohibiting residents from leaving their homes except for essential activities. This has led to a change in how even the most basic of operations are run, including how the court systems will operate during this trying time. If you have an outstanding criminal or civil case, you should speak to an attorney to determine how you should proceed.

Changes in Court Cases

While some of Connecticut’s courts are still open, they are operating at a limited capacity and only conducting essential business. As per Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7G, the courts will only schedule and hear matters that are considered to be “Priority 1 Business Functions.” These include:

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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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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for immigration casesImmigration still remains a hotly debated topic in American politics. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have tried multiple ways to get state and local law enforcement agencies to help them detain undocumented immigrants. While some states and cities have complied with these requests, others have not. Connecticut has long been considered a “sanctuary state” due to its unwillingness to help ICE detain immigrants. The Trust Act that was passed in 2013 details Connecticut’s policy of a hands-off approach when it comes to ICE. However, even with these policies in place, the state has provided information about criminal cases involving immigrants to federal agencies for years.

What Is the Trust Act?

The most common way ICE asks for help with detaining immigrants is by issuing a civil detainer to law enforcement agencies. Historically, Connecticut has not willingly provided information to ICE about immigrants. The Trust Act actually prevented local law enforcement agencies in Connecticut from detaining immigrants on the basis of a civil detainer, unless the immigrant was on a federal terrorist watch list, had been convicted of a Class A or B felony, or had a judicial order issued against them.

Connecticut May Actually Be Helping ICE

Even though Connecticut has laws preventing law enforcement agencies from detaining an immigrant solely based on their status, the state has been helping ICE in other ways. When former Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy was in office four years ago, his administration entered into an agreement with ICE, granting it access to the information that is contained in Connecticut’s law enforcement database. Even more recently, the state entered into an agreement to provide information directly to ICE in 2018. The agreement allows ICE to access the Connecticut On-Line Law Enforcement Communications Teleprocessing system, also known as COLLECT.

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Connecticut sex crime attorney character witnessesSince the beginnings of the “Me Too” movement, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the issues surrounding sexual violence. Several high-profile cases have taken place in the past couple of years, including the Brock Turner case, in which a college student was convicted of three counts of sexual assault and sentenced to only six months in jail. Another more recent case is that of Harvey Weinstein, the media mogul who was convicted of two counts of sex crimes after years of allegations and trials. Weinstein’s case was of interest to the criminal justice community in particular for the choice of witnesses permitted to testify during the trial.

Sexual Assault Cases Often Involve “Prior Bad Acts” Witnesses

It is not uncommon for trials involving allegations of sexual misconduct to allow character witnesses to testify about the defendant’s past behavior. These “prior bad acts” witnesses may allege that the defendant committed previous acts of sexual misconduct, even if there were never any charges or convictions pursued for the supposed acts. In two recent high-profile cases, prior bad acts witnesses were involved. In the Weinstein case, three additional witnesses were permitted to testify against Weinstein, even though charges were never pursued for the misconduct the witnesses alleged. In another case involving actor Bill Cosby, five women testified against him, and none of these witnesses’ allegations resulted in criminal charges. It has been speculated that these witnesses played a significant role in the defendants’ convictions.

Implications of Allowing These Types of Witnesses

The fact that most courts allow prior bad acts witnesses is something of concern in the criminal justice community. This practice allows prosecutors to solicit testimony from alleged victims in cases where a defendant was never charged with a crime or found guilty, including in cases where prosecutors deemed that the defendant’s alleged actions were not substantial enough to warrant criminal prosecution. In some cases, witnesses may even testify about alleged incidents that were never reported to police or doctors. Because of this, many criminal defense attorneys have called the legitimacy of prior bad acts witnesses into question and argued against the use of this type of evidence.

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