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Posted on in Juvenile Crimes

CT defense lawyerWhen a juvenile commits a crime in Connecticut, there are two possible ways the case can be classified. Depending on several factors, including the nature of the offense, a juvenile can either be classified as a juvenile defendant, or as a youthful offender. While these two designations might seem interchangeable, they are not, and it is critical to understand the difference.

Juvenile Defendants

Juvenile defendants are, as one might expect, juveniles - people under the age of 18 who have committed an offense that the prosecutor determines should be prosecuted in juvenile court. They are referred to as juvenile delinquents, rather than defendants; Connecticut’s juvenile courts are much more focused on rehabilitation, especially for first offenders, as opposed to the adult court system that is focused more on punishment. The nature of the offense usually determines whether someone under 18 will be charged as a juvenile or as an adult.

Juvenile defendants are also more likely to be granted a non-judicial outcome in their case, meaning probation or pretrial diversion as opposed to a conviction and sentence. This may seem not harsh enough, for a young person who has allegedly committed a crime, but nonjudicial outcomes are not generally available for those who commit serious offenses. With nonviolent misdemeanors and violations, the state of Connecticut has decided to help young offenders learn rather than punish immediately.

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CT defense lawyerThere are many different degrees of criminal assault, each with its own set of criteria that must be proven at trial. However, this can be quite confusing for someone who has been charged with assault, because you may not be aware of what the prosecution has to prove and what it does not. Having a good understanding of the case against you is an important way that you can keep a realistic picture of your chances in court.

Assault Charges Are Very Specific

Connecticut recognizes numerous specific degrees of assault charges, understanding that arguments and fights that get out of hand are quite different from an intentional and malicious attack. Intent is a major factor in determining what degree to charge someone with, but it is not the only factor - others include whether or not a weapon was used, the level of harm caused, and the identity of the victim (penalties will be stiffer, for example, if the victim is an elderly or disabled person).

It is important to keep in mind that factors about each defendant do not tend to affect the choice of charge; rather, if someone is convicted, it will be taken into account for sentencing purposes. Obviously, your aim is to avoid conviction and sentencing in the first place, but it is still a good idea to be aware of what the factors are that go into charges. The charge will reflect the overall event: if you caused minor injury to someone with your hands versus, say, attacking them with a knife or firearm.

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CT defense lawyerNormally, when someone is arrested and charged with a criminal offense, the only way to end that process is either with an acquittal, a conviction, or a plea-bargain. There is another way that your trial can end, though you do not necessarily get to choose it. It is called taking a “nolle prosequi” or “nolle prosse,” and it will not necessarily be offered to you, so if it is, you need to understand exactly what is being offered before consenting.

Not a Dismissal

A nolle prosequi or nolle prosse, sometimes shortened to just a “nolle,” is a legal term that means “unwilling to prosecute” in Latin. It essentially serves as an implicit admission that the charges against a person cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt because if they could, the prosecutor would want to move forward with the case in all but the rarest situations. In most cases, a nolle prosse will result in the charged person being given probation or otherwise ordered to refrain from any kind of lawbreaking for a certain period of time.

Many are under the misapprehension that a nolle is the same as a dismissal, and in reality, there are very important distinctions. A dismissal means that the charges were dropped with no strings attached, and no further required interaction with the court or police. A nolle, at least in Connecticut, means that your arrest records will not be erased until 13 months have passed without you running afoul of the law. The law actually gives the prosecutor the right to reopen the case and re-prosecute at their sole discretion - in other words, you are still on the proverbial hook until 13 months have passed. (Reopening is rare, but not unheard of.)

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Posted on in Juvenile Crimes

CT defense lawyerToo many people see petty crime or mischief offenses as part of growing up, especially for young boys and men. However, it is still important not to overlook the potential consequences of committing a crime, and in some cases, the crime may be serious enough to be removed to adult court, with all the attendant consequences. Having an experienced juvenile justice attorney on your side can help smooth out the process while still preserving your child’s rights.

Juvenile Court: More Rehabilitative Than Punitive

In juvenile court, there are two broad categories of offenses that a young person may be charged with: delinquent acts, or serious juvenile offenses. Delinquent acts are defined as the violation of a federal or state law (with exceptions) by a juvenile. Essentially, if the act in question is not defined as a serious juvenile offense, it will generally qualify as a delinquent act. Serious juvenile offenses, by comparison, are specifically laid out in the relevant statute, and if the prosecutor thinks it necessary, allow your child’s case to be removed to adult court.

In most cases where a juvenile is arrested, Connecticut’s justice system has the stated aim of trying to rehabilitate them, rather than solely punish them for their choices. Their young age and (in most cases) lack of life experience are seen as mitigating factors, to some degree, and especially in cases of non-violent crime, many juvenile offenders are offered alternative options to a jail sentence, such as diversion programs or community service.

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CT defense lawyerDomestic violence is a crime that justifiably carries quite a lot of social stigma, in addition to the potentially serious criminal penalties. However, it is very easy for a disagreement to spiral out of control, or for a word or gesture to be misunderstood. If you have been charged with domestic violence, it is critical that your side of the story be told. Enlisting an experienced Connecticut domestic violence attorney can ensure your rights are protected.

Connecticut Definition Is Expansive

Historically domestic violence or family violence was a charge confined to violence between spouses or involving a parent and child. However, Connecticut law explicitly includes multiple categories of relationships as falling under this law, including spouses and former spouses, “persons related by blood or marriage,” roommates, co-parents (whether or not they live together or have been married), and people in dating relationships. The intent is simply to protect as many people as possible.

The law does specifically exclude acts by parents intended to discipline minor children unless those acts constitute abuse. Also, verbal abuse does not count as domestic violence unless there is “present danger” and the “likelihood” that physical violence will occur. This can be a very difficult thing to interpret, and because domestic violence is such a serious crime, very often peace officers may err on the side of caution and arrest a person to hedge their bets, so to speak, or because they feel they have to arrest someone.

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CT defense lawyerThe category of theft crimes covers quite a lot of legal real estate, but across the board, it is reasonable to say that none of the offenses under that umbrella should ever be taken lightly. Theft charges and convictions can reflect on your general character, and can actively harm future prospects for things like renting a home or getting a new job. If you have been charged with shoplifting or any other kind of theft crime in Connecticut, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help with your case.

Multiple Theft Crimes

In some states, simple theft is a different crime from, for example, receiving stolen property or shoplifting. In Connecticut, they are all grouped under the ‘umbrella’ of larceny, which in turn is defined as wrongfully “tak[ing], obtain[ing], or withhold[ing]” property from a person with the intent to deprive them of it or to take it for yourself. The different theft crimes have different criteria, but if you are charged with, for example, embezzlement, the actual charge will be larceny in the first, second, or third degree.

Other examples of Connecticut theft crimes include:

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CT defense lawyerViolent crime does happen in Connecticut, contrary to the beliefs of many people, with the state rate roughly mirroring the national numbers. However, what many do not understand is that not all violent crime is the result of unbridled malice or evil actions. If you have been charged with a violent crime like assault and battery or murder, you have the right to a good defense, and you have the right to seek legal help that can ensure you have your fair day in court.

Remain Silent

If you have been held in connection with a violent crime, it is imperative to exercise your right to remain silent whenever possible. Many people in such a position may say something off the cuff or not understand their rights when they are read (or, in rare cases, their rights may not be read to them), and anything they say can be used against them in court, just as every Miranda warning one sees on television makes clear. Do not give law enforcement any opportunity to misunderstand or use your own words against you.

It is important to keep in mind that you do not even need to wait for formal charges before retaining an attorney. The criminal justice system can be quite complex and it is easy to make errors in procedure that can cost you - having an experienced attorney on your side can ensure your rights are protected, as very often, prosecutors and police may try to cut procedural corners in trying to secure an arrest and conviction. Sometimes this is unintentional, and sometimes it is not, but either way, you have the right to have someone on your side sticking up for your rights.

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CT DUI lawyerDriving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) is seen as one of the most reckless and dangerous crimes one can commit without having the malicious intent to harm anyone. The penalties, even for a first-time offender, can be quite serious. However, if you are caught driving under the influence again in Connecticut, the penalties are even more serious and no leniency will be granted to you as a repeat offender. If you have been charged with a second or third DUI, you need an attorney well versed in these types of cases to stand up for your rights.

A Second DUI Is a Felony

In Connecticut, the 10-year period after you are convicted of DUI is the key to keeping your criminal record clear. A first DUI is often charged as a misdemeanor if no one has been injured or killed, and as such, the person may be eligible for pretrial diversion programs and other rehabilitative options instead of having to serve a prison sentence. If you are convicted of a second DUI within 10 years of the first, you will automatically be charged as a felony, regardless of whether the DUI caused injury, death, property damage, or no damage at all.

A second DUI in 10 years being charged as a felony means that no pretrial diversion is available; if you are sentenced to prison at trial, you must serve that prison sentence. Connecticut law allows a sentence of between 45 and 730 days (two years) for any DUI beyond the first offense, as well as fines of up to $4,000 and a driver’s license suspension for up to three years, depending on the specific nature of your actions.

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CT defense lawyerSex crimes are among the most serious and potentially damaging allegations that can be levied against a person, and even if they are untrue, the stigma can remain for years after your name is legally cleared. If you have been charged with a sex crime in Connecticut, you need an attorney who understands the law in these high-pressure situations, and who will give you the best chance to clear your name if the accusations are untrue.

Four Different Charges

Connecticut law recognizes four different degrees of sexual assault, as opposed to delineating different charges for rape, sexual assault, statutory rape, and other sex-related crimes. It is also possible to add an ‘aggravating’ factor, such as the use of a weapon, the help of accomplices who are present, or the display of “extreme indifference to human life.” It is possible to charge someone with both aggravated and non-aggravated sexual assault in the same degree, though one can only be convicted of one or the other.

It is important to understand that being accused of a lesser degree of sexual misconduct does not mean that the charge should not be taken extremely seriously. While first and second-degree sexual assaults are felonies carrying up to life and 40 years’ prison sentence respectively, even a fourth-degree misdemeanor charge of sexual assault carries a penalty of up to one year in jail. This is on top of any fines and required registry as a sex offender.

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CT defense lawyerAllegations of bias or bigotry are very serious and becoming increasingly not tolerated in this day and age. Many states, including Connecticut, have instituted significant penalties that can be added onto a sentence if it can be proven that the underlying crime was committed with intent to harm or threaten a member of a minority group. If you find yourself charged with a hate crime on top of another charge, it is a very serious charge that cannot be ignored.

Two Crimes

To charge someone with a hate crime in Connecticut, it must be alleged that they either committed assault, vandalism (or another property crime), or harassment, for the express purpose of targeting a person based on their immutable characteristics. There are three degrees of “intimidation based on bigotry or bias,” as hate crimes are officially known in Connecticut, and in order for someone to be found guilty of any of them, the prosecution must show both that the underlying crime and the bigotry or bias are present.

So, for example, if you are charged with assault after attacking someone, and there is reason to believe that you did so based on their race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, the prosecution would have to prove both that you actually did commit the crime of assault, and that you did so against that particular person because of one or more of those characteristics. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you had the intent to attack that particular person out of hate or malice, you cannot be convicted of a hate crime.

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CT defense lawyerWhen a person is on another person’s property without permission, it is generally in the service of committing a crime, like burglary. This is not always true - but even when it is not, you may still be on the proverbial hook for the crime of criminal trespass. It is important that you understand your or your child’s entry onto private land may still rise to the level of criminality, and if it does, to react accordingly.

Three Degrees of Trespass

There are three degrees of criminal trespass under Connecticut law, and all hinge on the issue of intent. If you specifically ignore an explicit communication advising you that you are trespassing (or will be if you enter the land), but you enter or refuse to leave regardless of that fact, you will be charged with first-degree criminal trespass, which is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, plus a fine of up to $2,000 and court costs. Second-degree trespass does not involve any kind of explicit communication and is a class B misdemeanor, and third-degree trespass deals only with those caught entering onto private land to hunt or fish, which is a class C misdemeanor.

It can be easy to confuse criminal trespass with burglary, as both require entry onto someone else’s land without express permission. However, in order to be charged with burglary, you must not only enter onto the land; you must enter into a “building” or a “dwelling” with the specific intent to commit a crime. Criminal trespass does not require the intent to commit a crime - only the intent to remain on the land. The distinction is fine, but it is quite important, given that the minimum sentence for burglary is equivalent to the maximum sentence for criminal trespass.

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CT criminal lawyerOne of a parent’s worst nightmares has to be their child being expelled from school or even just threatened with expulsion. In this day and age, schools are getting tough with discipline, and codes of conduct are far less forgiving than they used to be. However, your child does have certain rights, including the right to contest the expulsion. Having an experienced attorney present at the hearing can help you reach a negotiated outcome that affects your child’s future as little as possible.

Many Grounds for Expulsion

Depending on your school’s code of conduct, there are many different actions that can lead to a sentence of expulsion. Examples include sexual assault or misconduct, cheating or plagiarism, bullying, and possession of alcohol or drugs, though there are many others, depending on the school. Many students do not realize that the code of conduct for their school has the strength of a binding contract - in other words, both sides of the equation must uphold the rules in the code, and if this does not happen, the contract can be severed.

Even though offenses serious enough to warrant an expulsion are very severe, your child does still have rights. One of those is the right to have an attorney lay out the arguments to keep them in school, and to delay an expulsion hearing for up to 10 days in order to find representation. They also do have the right to an alternative education plan in the event of an expulsion, even if that expulsion is permanent. Nonetheless, remaining in school is obviously the preferable option, and being able to make your case persuasively is critical in achieving that goal.

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CT ticket lawyerNo one sees traffic tickets as particularly significant, but moving violations can add up and cause significant time and trouble for people who get them, especially if you build up a few without paying them. Enlisting the right traffic ticket attorney can help ensure that your ticket or tickets are handled in the most efficient and just manner possible, and possibly help you avoid having to make an admission of guilt as well.

Guilty Pleas Carry Heavy Fines

Most people see moving violations as minor issues, but the fines can add up. Connecticut has been making a concerted push to seemingly hand out more tickets, both to raise state revenue and ostensibly to make streets safer, and many simply choose to pay them off instead of contesting them. However, points do accrue on your driving record if you admit guilt, even though moving violations are infractions - not crimes or civil torts. Violations like speeding, following too closely, and making an illegal turn will all add points.

If you have reached a total of six or more points on your record, the Connecticut DMV will send a warning letter to you advising you of that fact. You will also be advised that if you go on to exceed ten points, your license will be suspended for 30 days. In turn, if you then exceed ten points at any point in the next five years, the Department of Motor Vehicles then has the authority to suspend your license until your record dips below ten points. Points fall off your record within 24 months, or sometimes you are able to have them removed upon completion of a defensive driving course.

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CT criminal lawyerIn recent years, there has been a push to legalize small amounts of marijuana in various states around the country. Connecticut is one of the states that has made a change, reducing the penalty for possession of less than ½ ounce of marijuana to a criminal violation, rather than a misdemeanor or felony. However, if you are stopped with more than ½ an ounce, you can still be charged with a drug crime in Connecticut. If this is you, be aware that you do have options, especially if you have a knowledgeable attorney on your side.

Penalties Still in Force

While the penalty for possession of minor amounts and possession of some marijuana-related paraphernalia has been lowered to a violation, the sentencing for conviction on possession of larger amounts or for distribution remains unchanged, and a conviction will stay on your record for many years afterward. A first-time misdemeanor possession charge carries a jail term of at least 1 year, while a felony conviction means at least 5 years in jail.

Distribution penalties are even more severe, even for a first offense. Depending on the amount involved in the charge, you can face anywhere between 5 and 20 years in prison. If you are convicted of distributing 1 kilogram or more, there is a mandatory minimum of 5 years, plus all the attendant fines. In addition, there are modifiers that can add time, such as distributing to someone under 18 or distributing within 1,500 feet of a school.

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CT juvenile lawyerOperating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs is one of the most reckless acts that a person can commit, and the law takes an especially dim view of it if the accused is underage. If your child has been arrested and charged with OUI while they are under the legal drinking age, there may be additional ramifications on top of the normal OUI penalties. Enlisting an attorney to help answer your questions is highly recommended.

Zero Tolerance Policy

Connecticut has a legal blood alcohol limit (BAC) of .08 percent, but if you are underage, any trace of alcohol in your system beyond .02 percent will result in arrest. Normally, a driver detained under suspicion of OUI will be jailed at least overnight, but for underage drivers, the procedure initially does differ. Underage drivers are not detained, generally, but their drivers’ license is seized, and their vehicle will usually be towed. In order to get their license back, their parent or guardian must come in person to retrieve it, and must also agree to cover any towing expenses.

Unlike with many other juvenile offenses, an underage OUI does carry a jail sentence even for a first offense, as in 2012 Connecticut changed its laws so that the penalties for OUI are the same regardless of the age of the driver. Thus, even for a first offense, even for an underage defendant, a potential penalty of up to six months in jail is on the proverbial table, as well as a mandatory 45-day license suspension and an ignition interlock device (IID) for one year.

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CT defense lawyerConnecticut has a very wide-ranging larceny statute, that encompasses quite a few different theft crimes, including retail theft (shoplifting) and embezzlement. Because the statute is so broad, it can seem a bit overwhelming to those charged with a larceny crime, but in truth, the law is usually more simple than it appears. If you have been charged with larceny, understanding the specifics of the law and what you might be facing can help demystify the process.

The Umbrella Is Wide

Connecticut law defines larceny as having the intent to either permanently deprive another person of property, or to appropriate it for themselves, and physically taking or withholding that property from its rightful owner. While other states specifically define different theft crimes like extortion or embezzlement under their own statutes, Connecticut classifies them all as theft crimes, under the wide umbrella of larceny. In other words, the law defines each theft crime as being a type of larceny, rather than as specific and individual crimes.

The key part of a larceny charge is intent - if the state cannot prove that you intended to permanently retain another person’s property, they have not proven all the elements of their case, and it is not always easy to illustrate intent one way or the other. This is a very common defense that is offered in cases that involve theft from a private person or entity; a defendant can argue that they merely borrowed the property and intended to return it.

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CT defense lawyerAssault is a serious crime, and being charged with first-degree assault means that your alleged actions were extremely serious. However, every case has multiple sides to it, and you are entitled to a good defense so that you are able to tell your story. Contacting an experienced criminal lawyer can help ensure you have the best chance to keep the record straight.

Charges Depend on Severity

There are three different degrees of assault under Connecticut law, with third-degree assault being a Class A misdemeanor, second being a Class D felony, and first-degree being a Class B felony. Which degree is charged largely depends on three factors: the severity of the harm, the intent of the attacker, and the identity of the victim (certain victim classifications, such as being elderly, pregnant, or disabled, will raise the charge or add time at sentencing). The presence or absence of a weapon can also make a difference.

There are several different ways that someone can be tried for first-degree assault - in other words, many different fact patterns will qualify for such a charge. Production of an injury to another person via the use of a firearm (or other dangerous instrument or deadly weapon), intent to produce serious or permanent disfigurement to another person, and reckless conduct capable of causing death that ultimately causes severe harm are all examples of fact patterns that will yield a charge in the first degree.

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CT defense lawyerIn most U.S. states, it is illegal for someone to consume alcohol and then operate a motor vehicle, and it is also illegal for anyone in the vehicle to have an open container of alcohol. Connecticut is one of the few states where the laws on open containers differ, and this can lead to confusion for drivers, especially those from out of state. Failure to understand Connecticut law can lead to being arrested for driving under the influence, and this is obviously an outcome that most people want to avoid.

No Real Open Container Law

As of this writing, 40 U.S. states have laws prohibiting open containers of alcohol in vehicles. Connecticut, however, is not one of them - in most situations, passengers who are over the legal drinking age of 21 are permitted to have alcohol in a vehicle and even drink from the open container. Connecticut law prohibits consumption of alcohol “while operating a motor vehicle” - but if one is not operating the vehicle, the law is lax. Some local ordinances do ban open containers entirely, but state law does not.

There may be consequences for drivers who are under 21 whose passengers drink alcohol in the car, but these would stem from their age, rather than any consumption. A police officer can charge an underage driver with a violation if there is alcohol in their car if they believe the driver knew or had reason to know of its presence, which can lead to a license suspension. However, this can be difficult to prove, depending on the specific facts of the case.

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CT defense lawyerCyber crimes are relatively new, given that they obviously did not exist before the advent of the technology to commit them. However, just because computer technology is ever changing and evolving does not mean that they can be used to commit crimes with impunity. Cyberbullying, cyberstalking and cyberharassment are all very real crimes that one can be charged within Connecticut, and if you are facing these charges, it takes an experienced attorney to know how to handle them appropriately.

Cyberbullying

While one thinks of ‘bullying’ as restricted to students, in reality, it can occur between any two or more people, of any age. Connecticut law criminalizes communicating with a person, in any form, “with intent to harass, annoy or alarm [them],” making it a Class C misdemeanor. This may not seem like a sufficiently harsh measure for the amount of grief that bullying behavior can cause, but it does carry a maximum of three months in prison, plus a $500 fine, which is more stringent than many misdemeanors.

Bullying and stalking are differentiated under Connecticut law by the emotion they are said to cause. Bullying does not necessarily cause fear - it may cause annoyance, anger, depression, and the like, but if an action rises to the level where a victim fears for their safety, it is more likely to be classed as an act of stalking than mere bullying. This is not precisely in line with the colloquial definition of those two words, but legally, the line must be drawn somewhere, and the legislature has chosen to put it there.

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CT defense lawyerMost people think that white collar crime is the province of Wall Street and the wealthy; in reality, white collar crime is the name used for a wide variety of crimes that do not involve violence, but do involve cheating or lying. It is a serious charge to lay at someone’s door, and if you have been accused of such conduct, it is imperative to have an experienced attorney on your side who understands this type of law.

An Ever-Changing Term

Because historically, the ‘white collar’ has been used to denote a richer and ostensibly less violent class of people, but also the hallmark of professionals such as lawyers and accountants, the term ‘white collar crime’ has been used to describe any crime involving dishonesty or fraud. Examples to be found in the Connecticut General Statutes include (but are not limited to) fraud (more specifically mail fraud, credit card fraud, insurance fraud, and the like), embezzlement, money laundering, bribery, identity theft, forgery, tax evasion, creating or passing counterfeit bills, and many more.

In recent years, the term has evolved yet again to include more ‘new’ crimes, such as those requiring technology to commit. Cyber crimes fall under the realm of white collar crime, even though they can at times be violent - for example, stalking can turn violent if the behavior is not stopped or the alleged perpetrator is not arrested. It is important to keep this umbrella term in mind, even if it is inexact, because sometimes judges, in particular, may try to make ‘examples’ out of ‘white collar criminals.’

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