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hartford criminal defense lawyerPeople who are charged with crimes can face a number of difficulties as they navigate the criminal justice system, and unfortunately, many defendants are treated unfairly by law enforcement officials and prosecutors. There are multiple ways that these officials can abuse the system, including by filing criminal charges against a person in retaliation for asserting their rights or to justify illegal actions by police officers. This is known as “malicious prosecution,” and it can often place people in a difficult position as they fight against what can seem like a rigged system. Fortunately, a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may help limit these types of actions and ensure that defendants can protect their rights.

Fourth Amendment Protections Against Malicious Prosecution

For years, courts have been divided on the issue of whether the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people against criminal consequences, such as arrest or imprisonment, that are based on false statements or omitted facts by police officers or prosecutors. In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court determined that people who have been subject to malicious prosecution can pursue civil lawsuits against those who were responsible in cases where charges are dropped or when they are acquitted.

The case in question, Thompson v. Clark, involved a man in Brooklyn, New York who was charged with resisting arrest. He and his wife had a newborn daughter, and they also lived with the wife’s sister, who had developmental disabilities. The sister had called the police and reported that the man had sexually abused his child. When EMTs and police officers arrived at the apartment following the call, the man refused to allow them to enter without a search warrant. The officers then tackled the man, handcuffed him, and conducted a search of the apartment without a warrant, and to justify these actions, they charged him with resisting arrest. The man was held in police custody for two days. When no evidence of abuse was found, prosecutors chose to drop the charges.

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connecticut criminal defense lawyerNearly everyone agrees that sex crimes are a serious issue that should be addressed by the criminal justice system. Sexual offenses committed against children can be especially horrific, and around one out of every four girls and one out of every 13 boys experience some form of sexual abuse while they are under the age of 18. However, people may disagree about the best ways to address these issues and protect children against harm. A recent study indicates that the resources the United States puts toward addressing child sexual offenses are more focused on punishing offenders than actually preventing these types of crimes from occurring.

Money Spent on Incarceration Vastly Outweighs Child Sex Crime Prevention Efforts

The criminal justice system spends a significant amount of money to address child sex offenses, but nearly all of these funds go toward “reactive” efforts that take place after crimes have already been committed. There are currently more than 144,000 people incarcerated in state or federal prisons who have been convicted of sex crimes against children. Most of these offenders are required to serve sentences of at least eight years, and they are also subject to restrictions after being released, such as the requirement to register as sex offenders. 

While incarceration and other penalties may be seen as appropriate responses for crimes committed against children, studies have found that they are not an effective way to prevent future crimes from taking place. 82 percent of people convicted of sex crimes do not commit additional offenses, and only 5 percent of all sex crimes are committed by those who have previously been convicted of sexual offenses. In fact, some studies have indicated that incarceration in harsh prison environments may increase the likelihood that those who have been convicted of sex crimes will commit additional offenses after being released.

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hartford criminal defense lawyerDNA contains a wealth of information about a person, and due to modern technology, this information can be used for a variety of beneficial purposes. Genetic information can provide information about a person’s health and ensure that they receive the proper medical treatments, and it can be used to establish family connections and provide details about a person’s roots. DNA is also playing an increasingly important role in criminal investigations. Unfortunately, many people do not realize how information stored in genetic databases may be used against them or others, and criminal justice advocates are questioning how storing and sharing this data may affect people’s rights.

DNA Databases Used in Criminal Investigations

Genetic information is being used in more and more criminal cases. Evidence gathered at a crime scene may be compared to DNA information in a variety of genetic databases to identify potential suspects. While this practice has led to some high-profile arrests, such as the identification of the “Golden State Killer,” it has also led privacy advocates to raise concerns. 

In many cases, investigators have used data from public databases of genetic information created by genealogy services such as Ancestry or 23andMe. However, many people who submit DNA to these services do not realize that their information may be turned over to law enforcement and used in criminal investigations. Some cases have used genetic data submitted by a suspect’s distant relatives, putting a person’s privacy at risk even if they were never aware that details about their family and their DNA had been made available to others.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_2087573356.jpgMinors who are charged with criminal offenses will often struggle to protect their rights during the legal process. In many cases, prosecutors will seek harsh sentences, and if a person is convicted, they may be required to spend significant time in prison, and they may also experience multiple types of collateral consequences after being released. Advocates for criminal justice reform are working to address the practices followed by prosecutors, and one issue that has been highlighted recently involves life sentences for minors who are tried as adults for violent crimes.

Prosecutors Recommend Limits on Life Sentences for Juveniles

Recently, a coalition of prosecutors who work at the federal, state, and local levels suggested that the United States should limit the use of life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders. The group urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to review cases where prosecutors seek these types of sentences and only allow these harsh penalties in cases where a juvenile offender is incapable of rehabilitation. It also suggested that for all other juvenile offenders, sentences should be limited to no more than 30 years.

This proposal is based on psychological research that has shown that young people are less likely to fully understand the consequences of their actions. Minors whose brains are still developing may commit criminal offenses without realizing the effects that their actions may have on themselves or others, and they may be swayed into participating in crimes due to peer pressure. Since most young people are capable of change, they will often be able to participate in rehabilitation programs that will help them avoid criminal activity in the future, while also serving as a positive example for others. It is important to give young people the chance to better themselves, address their past mistakes, and become positive members of society.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_84312832.jpgOver the past decade, advocates for criminal justice reform have worked to highlight problems in the justice system, and some government officials have begun to implement progressive policies meant to address these issues. Unfortunately, the rates of violent crime have increased over the past couple of years, and this may affect efforts to reform the justice system. As more people become concerned about violence, they have begun to elect prosecutors and other officials who promote “tough on crime” policies. This may make it more difficult for those who are facing criminal charges to receive fair treatment and avoid serious penalties.

Concerns About Crime and Lenient Policies

In recent years, people throughout the United States have been made aware of inequities in the justice system. The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the abuses that police officers often commit against minorities and people of color. Organizations such as the ACLU have worked to educate people about the uphill battle that many people face when they are charged with crimes, the lengthy sentences that apply even for low-level offenses, and the collateral consequences that can affect people’s lives when they are convicted. As a result, several states have begun to make reforms, such as by reducing or eliminating cash bail or limiting the types of cases where minors may be charged as adults. Some prosecutors have also made efforts to address these issues, such as by pursuing shorter sentences or limiting prosecutions for non-violent offenses.

Unfortunately, these efforts may encounter obstacles due to recent trends in criminal activity. The rates of murder and other violent crimes have increased significantly over the past few years. There are many possible reasons for this increase, including difficulties that people have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and increases in the number of firearms purchased. However, even though progressive policies may not be directly related to the number of crimes that are being committed, some people believe that officials who are soft on crime may be responsible. As a result, prosecutors throughout the country are facing challenges such as recalls or efforts by voters to elect officials who are tougher on crime.

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