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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1725082078-min.jpgDue to the availability of modern technology, people are under near-constant surveillance. Security cameras, traffic cameras, or other devices may capture footage of people in commercial buildings or other public places, and this footage may be turned over to law enforcement in cases where crimes allegedly occurred. However, more and more people are using cameras around their homes that may capture footage of others, including doorbell cameras produced by Ring (a subsidiary of Amazon) and other manufacturers. Recently, privacy advocates and those who are concerned about the overreach of law enforcement have raised concerns about when police may access footage from these cameras and how this footage may be used as evidence in criminal cases.

Amazon May Release Ring Doorbell Footage to Police Without Owners’ Consent

Doorbell cameras capture footage in a variety of situations, including when people activate a doorbell or when they are walking near a home. Law enforcement officials may believe that this footage may be helpful to identify people accused of committing crimes, and footage may also be used as evidence in a criminal case. However, police usually need to obtain a warrant before they can access footage, although they may also secure evidence with the permission of a doorbell camera’s owner.

Amazon has stated that it has policies in place to ensure that police can only access footage from Ring doorbells if they receive permission from users or if they obtain a warrant. However, inquiries from Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts revealed that Amazon may provide footage to law enforcement without permission from users in emergency situations. Unfortunately, the specific situations that may be considered emergencies have not been detailed aside from stating that they may involve the “imminent danger of death or serious physical injury.” Amazon also failed to detail its decision-making procedures in these matters, and it stated that these types of requests by law enforcement have been granted 11 times in 2022 alone.

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hartford criminal defense lawyerChildren deserve to grow up in a safe and healthy environment. Parents are not only required to provide for children’s needs, but they must also take the proper steps to protect them from harm. If parents fail to protect children from being injured, or if they are accused of intentionally harming children, they may face criminal charges for child abuse or neglect. However, there are many cases where parents may be falsely accused of child abuse, and they may be charged with crimes in situations where children suffered accidental injuries. 

How Shaken Baby Syndrome Can Lead to Child Abuse Accusations

Connecticut law states that a child may be considered to be abused if they suffer injuries that occurred through non-accidental means. A parent may also be accused of abuse if the explanations given for children’s injuries are inconsistent with medical findings regarding the probable causes of an injury. The law also requires “mandated reporters” such as doctors who provide treatment to children to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement.

Because the failure to report cases in which child abuse may have occurred can result in serious penalties, parents may be accused of abuse even in situations where there are reasonable explanations for children’s injuries. In many cases, reports of child abuse involve “shaken baby syndrome.” This condition, which is also known as abusive head trauma or AHT, may be diagnosed in cases where infants or children display symptoms such as swelling in the brain or blood in the eyes without other signs of trauma, such as bruises or broken bones. While there may be a variety of plausible explanations for these symptoms, such as a parent accidentally dropping an infant or a toddler falling down the stairs, a diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome is often seen as a sign of child abuse. 

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connecticut-weapons-crimes-defense-attorney.jpgPeople in the United States rely on multiple types of laws that are meant to protect their safety. These laws address dangerous behavior, criminal actions, and products that can cause people harm. Unfortunately, many feel that a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has weakened some of these laws, which may put more people at risk of being injured or killed by guns. This ruling seemed to come at the worst possible time, as the nation is still reeling from multiple cases involving mass shootings of innocent people, including children, by people who had obtained guns legally. 

Court Strikes Down New York Concealed Carry Law

In June of 2022, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen, which addressed a state-level law in New York that limited the situations in which people could obtain licenses allowing them to carry concealed firearms. Unlike most other states, New York’s law had required people who applied for concealed carry licenses to demonstrate “proper cause” for why they should be allowed to possess and use concealed firearms in public. The Supreme Court struck down this law, and the majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas stated that the law violated both the Second Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

This ruling deviates from other recent rulings in federal courts, which had tried to balance people’s individual rights with the need to protect public safety. The individual right to own firearms had only been addressed by the Supreme Court relatively recently. In a 2008 case, the Supreme Court ruled that individuals could own firearms for self defense and to protect their homes. When addressing the issue of carrying firearms in public, several lower courts had found that the rights of society were also important, and to protect public safety, states were allowed to pass laws limiting people’s rights to carry guns. However, Justice Thomas’s opinion stated that when addressing these issues, the “history and tradition” of the United States is the primary factor that should be considered, rather than public safety.

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connecticut-weapons-charges-attorney.jpgIn recent years, the increase in the number of school shootings and other mass shootings has led many to call for new gun control laws to be put in place to help prevent these tragedies. Congress recently passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was meant to improve gun safety and reduce potential threats to children and other members of communities throughout the United States. While this law has included several measures that may help address mental health and prevent gun violence from occurring, it may also increase the likelihood that people may face federal criminal charges related to the use, ownership, and sale of firearms. 

Potential Criminal Charges Under the BSCA

The gun safety law has increased the penalties for certain types of federal weapons offenses, and it has also created some new crimes at the federal level that may apply to those who purchase or sell firearms. The changes made by the law include:

  • Straw purchasing of firearms - This offense was created by the BSCA, and it involves purchasing a firearm on behalf of someone who is not permitted to own firearms because they are a convicted felon, have been committed to a mental institution, have been convicted of domestic violence, or are subject to an order of protection preventing them from stalking, harassing, or threatening an intimate partner or family member. A conviction of this offense can result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years, although the maximum sentence may be increased to 25 years if a straw purchase was made when a person had reasonable cause to believe that a firearm would be used to commit a felony or a drug trafficking crime or engage in terrorism.

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hartford criminal defense lawyerIn 2021, the state of Connecticut passed a law legalizing the adult use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Under this law, people over the age of 21 may possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis, and they are allowed to store up to five ounces in their homes in a locked container. While this has reduced the situations where people may face drug charges related to the possession of marijuana, there are a number of complications that still need to be addressed, including determining when cannabis and cannabis products will be available for purchase in the state. Because the options for legally purchasing marijuana are currently limited, those who sell the drug to others without authorization could potentially face criminal charges for drug distribution.

Complications Affecting the Legal Sale of Marijuana

While medical marijuana is available to purchase from licensed dispensaries by Connecticut residents who have medical cannabis cards, there are not currently any dispensaries or other businesses that have been authorized to sell recreational marijuana. Before retail sales can begin, all businesses involved in the supply chain must obtain the necessary licenses, including growers, testing labs, distributors, and retail stores. Certain capacity levels must also be met to meet the needs of the retail market; the law requires a total of 250,000 square feet of space in the state dedicated to growing and manufacturing cannabis.

The state is currently processing applications for licensing. While existing dispensaries or other businesses that produce marijuana for medical use may be able to convert their licenses to allow for the production and sale of both medical and recreational marijuana, they will need to pay high licensing fees. Retailers must pay fees of $1 million, and producers or manufacturers must pay fees of $3 million. However, these fees may be reduced if a business forms an “equity joint venture” with one or more people who have been disproportionately impacted by drug laws and policies. In these cases, a business must be at least 50 percent owned by one or more people who earn less than three times the median income in the state, and those owners must have lived in a “disproportionately impacted area” for at least five of the last 10 years or for at least nine years before they reached the age of 18.

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