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East Hartford criminal defense attorneysWhen the police have reasons to believe that a person may have been involved with a crime, it is not uncommon for an officer to initiate a traffic stop in order for the officer to investigate a little closer. Court interpretations of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have held that traffic stops must be based on probable cause. This generally means that the officer must have seen the driver break a traffic law or observed indications that the driver was drunk, for example. But, what happens when once the driver is stopped? Can officers just decide to search the car to look for drugs, weapons, or other illegal items?

Probable Cause and Consent

Under the Fourth Amendment, courts have long required police officers to establish separate probable cause to justify a search of the vehicle during the traffic stop. In this context, “separate” probable cause means that the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the vehicle contains illegal items or evidence of criminal activity that is unrelated to the traffic violation for which the driver was stopped. Basic suspicion, including the driver’s reputation in the community or the time and location of the stop, is not usually sufficient to establish probable cause. Information from a tip, however, or the smell of drugs coming from the car could provide the probable cause the officer needs to conduct a search.

With all of this having been said, one of the most common ways for officers to get around the need for probable cause is to ask for the driver’s consent to search the vehicle. In many cases, the officer will ask directly, “Do you mind if I search your car? You don’t have anything to hide, right?” Other times, the officer may be more subtle, saying something to the effect of, “I’m sure it will amount to nothing, but you don’t mind if I have a quick look, do you?” If the driver gives his or her consent, the probable cause requirement no longer applies.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney trial penalty

Being charged with any type of crime in the state of Connecticut can be a scary and anxiety-ridden experience for many people, especially if this is your first time being involved in the criminal justice system. Many people have an idea in their head of how the process works from watching movies and television shows, but the actual criminal prosecution process is much different. In fact, most cases involving criminal charges do not even go to trial. Many times, prosecutors will end up offering the defendant a plea agreement, which would require a guilty plea in exchange for a lesser sentence than they would receive if they dispute the charges. However, this has created a new issue, dubbed the trial penalty.

Understanding Trial Penalties

If you are formally charged with a crime, you will then have the option of pleading guilty or not guilty. A majority of the time, a “not guilty” plea will result in the prosecutor offering you a plea deal, which is an agreement that typically requires you to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence than what you would likely receive if you proceeded to trial. The difference between the sentences is often staggering, too, forcing defendants to take deals for fear of risking longer sentences.

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East Hartford, CT personal injury attorney wrongful death

The term “wrongful death” is exactly what you would expect it to mean -- it refers to the untimely death of a person due to the negligence of another person. Dealing with death is difficult, but it can prove to be especially challenging if you know that your loved one’s death was due to the negligence and carelessness of another person. Fortunately, Connecticut has wrongful death statutes that allow you to collect compensation for your loved one’s pain and suffering if he or she had not died in the accident. Wrongful death cases can be complicated, which is why it is recommended that you get help from a personal injury lawyer if you are seeking compensation for your loved one’s untimely death.

Available Damages to Claim in Wrongful Death Cases

The entire premise of a wrongful death lawsuit is to allow a person’s family members to file what is essentially a personal injury lawsuit in the place of the deceased. Before any damages are awarded, the court must determine whether or not there is actually a case for negligence. If the defendant is determined to be held liable for a person’s wrongful death, they may be ordered to pay certain damages. These types of claims can be brought against someone after a fatal car crash or slip-and-fall accident. In some cases, a driver may have been intoxicated or a property owner failed to maintain a safe and secure environment for guests.   

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been felt by nearly every single person living in the United States at one point since the start of it all back in March. Even if you never actually got the coronavirus yourself, you likely had to alter your usual routine in some way because of the pandemic. For a length of time, Connecticut’s judicial system was running on minimum operations with the majority of courthouses closed to the general public to adhere to the Governor’s statewide shutdown order. As the courthouses have begun to reopen and the judicial system has begun to increase its caseload, many people are wondering when and how criminal jury trials will proceed. In many jurisdictions, cases that do not involve juries, such as divorces and other civil cases, have been successfully settled using virtual means. Some have wondered if that is paving the way for the inevitable: virtual criminal jury trials.

Issues with Virtual Criminal Jury Trials

Many of a courthouse’s day-to-day operations are not conducive to a post-pandemic world -- at least not yet. Now that the majority of Connecticut’s courthouses are open for staff and visitors, one of the only things that officials are scrambling to figure out is what to do about criminal jury trials. The possibility of virtual criminal jury trials taking place in Connecticut is becoming increasingly larger with each passing day of the pandemic. It is clear that we have the technology and the capability of conducting virtual jury trials, but virtual jury trials come with issues and downfalls of their own, such as:

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney false confession

For decades, American citizens have expressed various concerns about the nation’s police force over things such as the disproportionate use of violence against people of color and allegations of officers shooting unarmed suspects. According to the latest information from the Washington Post, there are approximately 5,624 people who have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since 2015, on average about 1,000 each year. Because of that, we are now seeing many police stations across the country implementing new de-escalation and diversity training for officers. However, another widespread and concerning issue that has not been addressed in the same manner is officers who coerce or solicit false confessions from suspects of a crime.

False Confessions Are Not Uncommon

According to The Innocence Project, 375 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence for crimes that they did not commit. Of those cases, 102 cases or 27 percent were wrongfully convicted because of false confessions. Other sources have estimated that nearly $450 million has been paid out by state governments to defendants in false confession exoneration cases. 

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