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East Hartford drug crimes defense lawyerThe laws in the United States related to marijuana have undergone many changes in recent years, and this has led to some confusion about which laws apply in which locations. Multiple states, including Connecticut, have made marijuana legal for both recreational and medical use. Other states only allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes, and some still consider it to be an illegal drug. At the federal level, marijuana is still considered to be a controlled substance, which means that people could potentially face federal charges even if they purchase marijuana legally in one state but transport it to another state. Lawmakers have taken steps to address these issues, and recently, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

In July of 2022, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon formally introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) in the U.S. Senate. When doing so, they noted that the overwhelming majority of people in the United States support the legalization of marijuana, and the majority of Americans also live in states where cannabis is legal in some form. They also stated that the so-called “war on drugs” and the prosecution of crimes related to marijuana has negatively affected many people, especially people of color, and decriminalization of marijuana will promote both justice and public safety.

In its current form, the CAOA would make the following changes to federal law:

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East Hartford criminal defense lawyerMemories can be surprisingly unreliable. This can be a difficult idea to swallow, since people often have strong emotions associated with the memories of their life experiences. However, even when a person believes that they have a strong memory that allows them to recall facts, people, or experiences, they often get the details wrong. People may misremember the order of events, inadvertently combine multiple memories, or even believe that someone else’s memories are their own. Unfortunately, even when memories are unreliable, people may strongly believe that they are correct. When a person’s memories are a key factor in a criminal case, this may lead to wrongful convictions. 

Far too often, criminal charges are based on eyewitness testimony, without any other supporting evidence. A testimony given by a victim or witness to a crime can be powerful, and a witness's identification of a suspect in a criminal trial can seem like incontrovertible truth, especially when strong emotions are involved. However, the unreliability of memory can easily cause a victim or witness to identify the wrong person. 

In fact, many witnesses are improperly influenced by police officers who have a particular suspect in mind. Officers may inadvertently or purposely indicate that they believe a certain person was the perpetrator when asking a witness to review photos or view a police lineup. This may affect people’s memories of events, causing them to believe that a suspect was involved in a crime. When a case is based on these types of memories, without other evidence, suspects may be falsely accused or convicted of multiple types of offenses.

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Hartford criminal defense lawyerPeople in the United States have a number of protections against unfair or illegal actions by law enforcement officials. These Constitutional rights include Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. Under the Fourth Amendment, police officers or other officials generally cannot enter and search a person’s property without first receiving permission or obtaining a warrant. The First Amendment also protects the right to free speech and ensures that a person will not face retaliation for legal actions such as making a complaint. 

When these rights are violated in criminal cases or other situations, people may be able to take legal action to address the issue. Lawsuits may be filed seeking monetary compensation for civil rights violations, asking the government to take action against an official who committed a violation, and putting procedures in place to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. However, due to a recent Supreme Court decision, the ability to pursue lawsuits in cases involving civil rights violations by federal agents may be limited.

How Egbert v. Boule Affects Claims Against Federal Officials

In the case Egbert v. Boule, Robert Boule, a man in northern Washington, had a history of smuggling people across the border into Canada. Erik Egbert, a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent, suspected that Boule was planning to illegally transport a person who was visiting the area from Turkey. Egbert entered Boule’s property to investigate. When Boule confronted Egbert, Egbert threw him to the ground and injured him. Boule later made a complaint and Egbert retaliated by reporting him to agencies such as the IRS and the Social Security Administration, asking them to investigate Boule’s business.

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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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