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connecticut criminal defense lawyerDefendants in criminal cases will often struggle to determine how they can protect their rights, respond to accusations by police officers and prosecutors, and resolve these matters in a way that will allow them to avoid being convicted or reduce their potential consequences. While all defendants may experience difficulties as they determine how to defend against criminal charges, minorities are likely to face more serious charges and consequences. A recent report that showed how Connecticut’s legal system is biased against minorities demonstrates the importance of working with an experienced attorney to defend against criminal charges.

Criminal Case Dispositions for Minorities in 2020

The Connecticut legislature has required prosecutors to collect demographic information about defendants and provide annual reports on the dispositions of criminal cases. The report for 2020 showed that while the total number of criminal cases decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the same types of disparities continued to affect minorities as in previous years. Findings of the report included:

  • While white people make up 67 percent of Connecticut's population, they only accounted for 46 percent of the dispositions in criminal cases. 11 percent of people in Connecticut are Black, but Black defendants accounted for 28 percent of criminal dispositions. Hispanic people make up 17 percent of the state’s population, but they accounted for 23 percent of criminal dispositions.

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East hartford criminal defense lawyerThe COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of everyone in the United States. Even though most people have been able to take steps to protect their health and safety, people who are serving sentences in prison have struggled to avoid the risks of infection. To address the risks that inmates face, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has allowed for the release of thousands of prisoners, placing them on home confinement during the pandemic. However, the future status of these prisoners is uncertain, and many are concerned that they may be required to return to prison. Convicted offenders and their family members may need to consult with a criminal defense attorney to determine whether they can take legal action to address this issue.

Prisoner Release Under the CARES Act

In March of 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which provided multiple types of relief to people who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the provisions of this act allowed for the early release of federal prisoners. This option was usually available for nonviolent offenders who had served at least half of their sentences and who met criteria such as good behavior during their sentence or a high risk of health complications due to COVID-19. 

After being released, prisoners have been able to continue serving their sentences while under home confinement. Most of the time, prisoners have been required to wear an electronic monitor such as an ankle bracelet. Prisoners may also be restricted to traveling only for work-related purposes, and they may be required to submit to regular drug testing. While these restrictions can be strict, home confinement has allowed many prisoners to reconnect with their family members, obtain employment, and pursue education.

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hartford defense lawyerChild pornography and other forms of child sexual abuse are a major concern in today’s society, and law enforcement officials have many tools at their disposal that they use to identify potential sexual predators and prosecute them for crimes against children. However, the increasing use of these tools has raised concerns about privacy and the violation of people’s Constitutional rights. Apple recently announced that it will be implementing a new feature that will search people’s iPhones to identify photos that may be considered child pornography. Multiple privacy and security advocates have argued that this feature is a troubling invasion of people’s privacy, and it could potentially be misused by law enforcement or other parties.

Problems With Apple’s Anti-CSAM Features

In an upcoming update to the iPhone operating system, Apple will be implementing new features meant to identify child sexual abuse material (CSAM). These features will scan users’ photos and compare their “digital fingerprints” with images in public databases of known child pornography images. If a match is found, an image will be reviewed by an Apple employee, and confirmed matches may result in law enforcement being notified and provided with a user’s information.

Other technology companies, such as Facebook, have used similar methods to scan photos uploaded by users. However, Apple’s new feature is different in that it will not just scan photos that have been uploaded to iCloud, but it will also scan photos stored on people’s individual devices. Security researchers have raised concerns that this opens the door to increased surveillance of users by law enforcement, as well as potential abuse by government officials who wish to track the activities of protestors, activists, or journalists. 

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hartford criminal defense lawyerMost people are aware of the potential consequences that they may face if they are accused of violating the law. A conviction on criminal charges can result in significant fines, jail time, probation, or other penalties, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding a case. However, many people do not realize that law enforcement officials may also seize people’s money or property, and this is sometimes done without a person ever being accused of or charged with a crime.

Understanding Civil Asset Forfeiture

Federal and state laws allow police officers or other law enforcement officials to seize assets that they believe are connected to a crime, including cash, vehicles, homes, or other property. If police officers have a “reasonable” belief that these assets were obtained through the proceeds of a crime, were used to further criminal activity, or were otherwise related to an alleged violation of the law, these assets can be confiscated. However, in many cases, these forfeitures occur even when a person is never officially charged with a criminal offense.

While officials often claim that civil asset forfeiture is used against drug dealers or others who are involved in serious crimes, they are much more likely to target low-income people and those who do not have the financial resources to challenge this type of seizure. One investigation found that the average amount seized by law enforcement is $1,276. In many cases, police departments keep the money or property seized through civil asset forfeiture for their own use, giving officers the incentive to confiscate cash or other valuable property whenever possible. 

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Connecticut Criminal Defense LawyerHigh-speed car chases can be exciting in movies or TV shows, but when they take place in the real world, they are likely to cause serious injuries or deaths. When police officers choose to chase a vehicle, they often put multiple people at risk, including innocent bystanders such as pedestrians and people in other vehicles. While officers may pursue a person for a variety of reasons, often claiming that doing so is necessary to protect public safety, most police chases involve minor traffic violations rather than serious criminal charges

Injuries and Deaths in Police Chases

Determining the actual number of people who have been injured or killed because of police chases is somewhat difficult. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the primary source of data regarding traffic-related deaths. However, reports to the NHTSA by police departments do not always state that deaths occurred in a police chase, and records may not indicate whether a person who was killed was a participant in a chase or an innocent bystander. Determining the number of people injured is even more difficult since the NHTSA only tracks fatal accidents.

By analyzing data from the past several decades, researchers have estimated that an average of 323 people are killed each year in police chases, and innocent bystanders account for 27 percent of these deaths. While the actual number of injuries suffered in police chases is unknown, it is estimated that as many as 7,400 people per year are injured. Minorities are disproportionately affected, with Black people being three times more likely to be killed in police chases as either suspects or bystanders.

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