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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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CT defense lawyerNo driver wants to see those blue flashing lights pop up in their rearview mirror. Traffic stops are always stressful. Being pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving is especially nerve-racking. At this time, you need to know how to protect your rights during the traffic stop and beyond. Notably, if you were arrested for a DUI in Stamford, CT, it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Your driving privileges, your freedom, and your reputation could all be on the line. You are entitled to strong legal representation.

Do Not Try to Talk Your Way Out of a DUI

At a traffic stop, you should always remain polite and you should cooperate with the reasonable requests of the responding law enforcement officers. That being said, defendants have a legal right to remain silent. You are not required to answer any invasive questions. If you are suspected of a DUI, you should use this right. One of the biggest mistakes you can make at a drunk driving stop is trying to talk your way out of an arrest. You are far more likely to talk your way into an arrest or to inadvertently provide statements that will be used in a future prosecution.

Know the Rules on Field Sobriety Testing

As explained by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the state has an implied consent law on the books. Drivers in Connecticut have pre-consented to chemical alcohol tests — such as blood tests and breath tests. The failure to submit to one types of chemical tests could result in a DUI refusal charge. However, drivers have not consented to perform other, less reliable field sobriety types of tests. You are not legally required to do the walk-and-turn, one-leg-stand, or to recite the alphabet backwards.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_truck-violation.jpgCommercial trucks, whether big rigs or smaller vehicles, are strictly regulated in Connecticut, and sometimes out-of-state drivers are surprised by the consequences for what may seem a petty violation. However, for a commercial truck driver, any moving violation can be a serious problem, so it is a good idea to enlist a Fairfield County truck violation attorney to ensure that any issues are handled as quickly and appropriately as possible.

Weight Violations

The most common trucking violations in Connecticut are weight violations, meaning that a truck is carrying too heavy a load. While this may not seem to be a particularly egregious offense, heavy trucks have a significant and serious impact on highway and bridge infrastructure, a large proportion of which is already in a state needing repair. Also, overweight trucks may not respond as quickly as those under the appropriate weight, so if evasive action is needed (for example, if a driver must react quickly to avoid a crash), they may not respond well.

Most weight violations are punished by a fine, the amount of which is calculated by the formula given in Connecticut’s statute. It can be very easy to simply give up and pay the fine, but doing that means that the moving violation will appear on your driving record going forward. Depending on the violation, this can pose a real problem for you - it may affect your ability to get a job in the future, or raise your insurance rate to a point where your employer may object. Contesting the ticket is generally a good idea because if you can get it reduced or dismissed, your driving record will benefit.

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CT defense lawyerWhen an individual is charged with a crime, there are other questions to ask beyond guilt or innocence, particularly if that individual is not a U.S. citizen. Criminal cases that can make a difference in a person’s immigration status are referred to as ‘crimmigration’ cases, and if you have been arrested and charged with a crime that could get you deported, you need both an immigration attorney and a criminal attorney who understands the possibilities and the dangers involved in this type of case.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude and Aggravated Felonies

Immigration law has its own classification for crimes, which can sometimes be almost totally divorced from the standard criminal law classification. If you are convicted of a crime, it is important to ensure that the crime is not contained in either one of two categories: crimes of moral turpitude (CIMTs) or aggravated felonies (AFs). A CIMT has no specific definition in U.S. immigration law, but it has been defined in various cases as an action that shocks the public conscience or is otherwise so “inherently base, vile or depraved” that it must necessarily show the person has bad moral character.

An aggravated felony is even less well defined - the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) merely lists several crimes that can be considered AFs, though many of them would, confusingly, be misdemeanors under state law. As a result of these misleading classifications, many criminal defendants will often plead to what they think is a lesser charge, when in reality, it may have the same or even worse immigration consequences than the crime they were originally charged with.

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CT defense lawyerVery often, shoplifting gets painted as a crime perpetrated by juveniles or others who do it to test limits. However, sometimes there are mental health-related reasons why a person might shoplift, or sometimes, the entire episode may genuinely be a mistake or a misunderstanding. If you have been charged with shoplifting, speaking to a knowledgeable attorney may help in the whole matter being resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

Serious Consequences

The penalties for shoplifting tend to vary with the value of the items stolen. If you steal items whose total adds up to $500 or less, you will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, where the penalty is anywhere up to 1 year in jail, plus fines and costs. Comparatively, if you steal items worth over $20,000, you are guilty of a Class B felony, which may be punishable with up to 20 years in jail, plus a $15,000 fine. Some charges, especially those which carry misdemeanor sentences, may be plea-bargained or you may be granted the right to complete a pretrial diversion program, especially if this is a first offense. However, those whose thefts are expensive enough to be charged as felonies may face serious time.

In addition to any consequences imposed by the state, Connecticut law also allows the business where the shoplifting took place to seek restitution and other costs from you in a civil proceeding. Businesses are allowed to seek reasonable recompense from shoplifters, such as covering the costs of copying tapes and other evidence for trial, as well as replenishing any stock or any costs incurred in security measures (even the costs of arresting you).

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CT defense lawyerMost of the time, when a young person under a certain age is arrested and charged with a crime, they are charged with that crime as a juvenile, which is different than if they were charged as an adult. However, it is easy to get confused between the juvenile and adult systems in Connecticut, even though it is important to be aware of the differences and the varying potential consequences of charges in each. If you or your child has been charged as an adult when they are legally still a juvenile, it means that the case is a very serious one, and you need all the help you can get on your side.

Rehabilitation vs Punishment

In the United States, the juvenile court system is generally seen as rehabilitative, while the adult court system is seen as more punitive, and there is, unfortunately, truth to this. Juvenile offenders, whether they have been charged with a crime or a status offense (a non-criminal offense, such as being truant or a runaway), are often referred to rehabilitation programs or educational diversions, as opposed to being given jail time or other punitive consequences. Only truly serious juvenile offenses warrant detention and trial, and even at that point, a trial in juvenile court is much more geared toward rehabilitating the accused.

In juvenile court, it is also more likely that you will be able to minimize the potential consequences of the offense, even if you plead guilty or otherwise admit wrongdoing. Connecticut will often handle juvenile cases ‘non-judicially,’ meaning that juvenile offenders will be shunted into pretrial diversion programs or given another type of consequence rather than jail time. Counseling or community service are common options.

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CT defense lawyerViolence is never the answer, but everyone makes mistakes, and everyone needs to defend themselves. If you have been involved in an incident where you used force, or threatened to use force, to cause bodily injury to another person, you can be charged with a crime of violence in Connecticut. Regardless of which specific crime you are charged with, it can derail your life plans significantly if you are convicted, so if there are mitigating circumstances, or if you simply want to ensure that your side of the story is told, it is a good idea to consult a Stamford violent crimes attorney to discuss your case.

Hard to Navigate the System

The National Registry of Exonerations lists almost 2,400 exonerations of wrongly convicted men and women that have occurred since 1989, with Connecticut having granted 25 in that time. While law enforcement tries to do its job well in order to ensure our streets are safe, it is true that sometimes, personnel will cut corners - perhaps pushing witnesses to exaggerate; perhaps inappropriate or illegal searches, or other actions. They will try to search for confessions and easy convictions that simply may not be there for the taking. It is not unheard of for law enforcement to allow violations of defendants’ constitutional rights in the hope that they will implicate themselves.

None of this is fair, and without an attorney, the chances are higher that you may be wrongfully convicted of a crime you did not commit, or receive a harsher sentence than might be warranted under state or federal laws. Even if you did harm or kill someone, you are still entitled to a fair trial and to a competent defense, and in some situations, you are less likely to get one without an experienced attorney on your side.

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Posted on in Traffic Violations

CT defense lawyerMost people think of traffic violations as everyday occurrences that one can pay a fine to resolve easily. While sometimes this is the case, sometimes the infraction is more severe, and while it is still a traffic violation, these can be quite serious, leading to license suspension and even revocation if the offense or offenses merit it. Enlisting an experienced attorney to help you defend against a traffic violation can save you time and trouble in the long run.

Many Different Kinds

Because the term ‘traffic violation’ can encompass so many things in Connecticut, it can be overwhelming to someone who has been charged with one, and it can be confusing to try and differentiate the charges which can be paid off with a fine from those that are much more serious. Also, some traffic violations may also be chargeable under criminal law as well as civil law, which means that even if you are found not liable under civil law, you might still be found guilty in criminal court, especially if you are deemed to have acted recklessly or with malice.

Something that also must be kept in mind is that even small infractions can result in points being added to your driver’s license, and points add up. Connecticut sends a warning letter to everyone who accumulates more than six points at any one time, but if you acquire more than ten, your license will be suspended for 30 days. If you are detained for a moving violation during that suspension period, or if your point total goes over ten at any time in the next five years afterward, your license will be suspended again until you get your point total below ten.

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CT defense lawyerWhile no parent likes to think about it, sometimes our children act in ways that are less than legal. When they do, it can often come as a great shock to learn that we as parents may be on the proverbial hook for the monetary damages. Connecticut has what are called parental liability laws which seek to place some of the liability for damages on the shoulders of parents of minor children. If your child commits a crime or an intentional tort (the equivalent under civil law), it is important that you understand the extent of your own responsibilities under the law.

Parents Held Responsible for Minors

While it can be an unwelcome surprise for parents to find they are liable for the damage their children cause, the rationale for holding them liable is fairly clear. In all walks of life, a parent is responsible for their children until they reach the age of majority, which is 18 in Connecticut. This responsibility simply extends to their children’s actions outside the home and immediate family sphere. However, there are limitations on this liability, and it also does not mean that no liability will extend to the minor themselves.

The law states that the maximum monetary threshold for parental liability on behalf of their minor child is $5,000. However, this threshold only applies if a parent is held liable under the specific statute. If a parent is sued for negligence - for example, if they had reason to believe that their child was going to do something violent and took no steps to stop them - that cap would not apply.

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