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Hartford domestic assault defense lawyerThe coronavirus pandemic has caused people and families throughout the United States to fear for their safety. While steps can be taken to minimize the risks of infection, these measures have led to a variety of other concerns, including increases in the number of reports of domestic violence

The difficulties that families are currently experiencing has led to increased stress in many households, as well as concerns about mental health and substance abuse. Couples who have struggled with relationship issues may have seen these problems become even worse due to being required to remain in close quarters together. Stress about financial problems caused by the loss of a job or difficulties addressing children’s educational needs while they are learning from home may also contribute to the breakdown of relationships between family members. 

These concerns may cause a tense situation to boil over, potentially leading to accusations of domestic assault or abuse. Advocates have reported that in recent months, calls reporting domestic violence have increased by 70%, and shelters for victims are currently at 150% capacity. This trend is expected to increase over the holiday season and during the new year. Those who are facing allegations of domestic violence will want to work with a criminal defense attorney to determine how they can address criminal charges, defend against a conviction, and preserve their family relationships and reputation.

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Hartford criminal law attorney for jury trialsThe coronavirus pandemic has affected the legal system in many ways, and some defendants have been left in limbo as they await a trial. To protect public safety, the courts in Connecticut have significantly reduced their capacity, and no criminal jury trials have been held in the state since March of 2020. While courts have taken protective measures and planned to begin holding trials, continued concerns about COVID-19 infections have delayed proceedings, and multiple cases involving court employees who have been infected have led some to call for the closure of courts for the time being. Because of this, many criminal defense attorneys are concerned about how this ongoing situation will affect the rights of defendants.

Delays in Trials Due to Difficulty Finding Jurors

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that those in the United States who are facing criminal charges have the right to a speedy, public trial before an impartial jury. Postponing criminal trials indefinitely would violate the rights of defendants, so courts have been working to determine how to resume these trials while still protecting the safety of everyone involved, including defendants, judges, attorneys, jurors, witnesses, and others who would be present in court.

Courts have taken steps to protect the safety of those who would be present during trials. These include requiring masks for everyone involved in a trial and following social distancing guidelines, as well as installing equipment to circulate clean air into courtrooms. However, the primary issue that is delaying trials is the difficulty of finding people who are willing to serve as jurors. Many people who have been contacted for jury service have not responded to summons, or they have asked to be excused because of concerns that they or their family members could be at risk of COVID-19 infections.

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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for police brutalityThe issue of police brutality and other forms of misconduct by police officers has been at the forefront of public debate over the past decade. These concerns have become even more prevalent in 2020 due to multiple incidents in which criminal suspects were killed by the police, sparking nationwide protests. Along with raising concerns about racial discrimination and the use of excessive force, advocates for criminal justice reform have noted that in many cases, incidents involving harm to suspects occur because police officers are ill-equipped to address emergency calls involving people who suffer from mental illnesses.

High Fatality Rates in Police Calls Involving Mental Illness

A number of recent studies have looked at cases in which police officers throughout the United States responded to situations involving mental health concerns, and they found some troubling results. Around one fourth of the cases in which a person was killed in an encounter with police officers occurred in situations where officers were responding to reports of “disruptive behavior” related to mental illness or substance abuse. In addition, people with untreated mental health issues are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other civilians, and police shootings that result in the death of a person with mental illness are 39% more likely to occur in small or mid-sized towns rather than large cities.

Police officers are trained to respond to potential threats, and they are authorized to use deadly force when they fear for their lives. Because of this, they may not be properly equipped to deal with those who are suffering from mental illness. If a person behaves erratically or unexpectedly, police officers are more likely to respond with force rather than attempting to deescalate the situation. 

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Hartford, CT criminal defense lawyer for marijuana possession and DUIThe marijuana laws in the United States seem to be in constant flux. Some states have legalized this drug for medicinal and/or recreational use, while in others, it remains illegal to use, possess, or distribute, and doing so can lead to drug charges. Connecticut residents may be unsure about the state’s marijuana laws, especially since the laws have also changed recently in some nearby states. 

Massachusetts legalized marijuana in 2016, New Jersey voted to legalize the drug in 2020, and it is rumored that New York and Rhode Island are soon to follow. Connecticut’s Governor, Ned Lamont, has stated that marijuana legalization may be on the state’s legislative agenda for 2021, and the taxes generated from legal sales of the drug may help make up the state’s budget deficit. However, until new laws are passed and go into effect, it is important for Connecticut residents to understand how the state’s laws address marijuana.

Marijuana Decriminalization and Medical Marijuana Use

Currently, the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Connecticut. However, the state has decriminalized possession of small amounts. A person who possesses less than half an ounce of marijuana will not face criminal charges, but they will instead be fined $150 for a first offense and between $250 and $500 for any subsequent offenses. Possession of one half of an ounce of marijuana or more is a Class A misdemeanor, and a conviction can be punished by up to one year in prison and up to $2,000 in fines.

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Hartford criminal law attorney for pardons and expungementRacial inequality is one of the many issues that have been on people’s minds in 2020. Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others not only because of these unnecessary deaths, but because the criminal justice system is unfairly biased against people of color. Black people are arrested, charged, and convicted of crimes at much higher rates than white people, and this has led to our current system of mass incarceration.

Even if a person is not convicted of a felony or does not end up in jail, criminal charges can have far-reaching effects on their lives. While Connecticut passed a “ban the box” law in 2017 that prohibits prospective employers from asking about a person’s criminal arrests, charges, or convictions on an application, background checks may still be performed during the hiring process, making it more difficult for those with a criminal record to find employment. A criminal record can also affect a person’s ability to find housing, pursue educational opportunities, or participate in children’s school activities.

All of this adds up to limited opportunities and ongoing problems for people of color who become involved in the criminal justice system. While white people are often able to move on from their past mistakes, Black or Hispanic people and other minorities usually do not have the same luxury, and they can end up paying the price for years after they are arrested or convicted. Because of this, advocates for criminal justice reform believe that more pardons should be issued to clear the criminal records of those who have completed their sentences.

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