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CT defense lawyerIt is very common for someone who has been charged with a misdemeanor to treat the whole episode as somehow not particularly serious or important, especially if they have never had any run-in with the law before. However, it is never a good idea to see criminal charges as inconsequential. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, contacting a criminal defense lawyer is the first step you should take.

Misdemeanors May Not Stay Misdemeanors

Connecticut criminal law has a wide range of misdemeanors, from disorderly conduct to prostitution. Class D misdemeanors are the least serious, usually carrying no more than 30 days in jail and a fine of a few hundred dollars. As the class goes up, so do the fines and the jail terms. Class A misdemeanors like prostitution can carry up to one year in jail, and fines of up to $2,000. No misdemeanor sentence will last more than one year, as Connecticut law immediately classifies all crimes with longer sentences as felonies.

While the sentences for misdemeanors are set down in the law, it is important to keep in mind that depending on the situation, a misdemeanor can be augmented or otherwise charged as more severe. For example, if a firearm or other deadly weapon is used during the commission of the misdemeanor, or if the crime is committed against a vulnerable individual (a disabled, elderly, mentally impaired or blind person), it may turn third-degree assault into second or first-degree.

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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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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 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 lawyerUnderage drinking is a problem in the United States. It is easy for young people to glamorize the practice, but in reality, it can lead to legal trouble, injuries, and even deaths, especially among the type of young person who fancies themselves immortal. Because of this, Connecticut has passed what it calls the Social Host Law. Under the law, parents can be held liable for episodes of underage drinking that occur in their house. Yet many parents remain unaware of this until it is too late.

Two Categories

A social hosting offense can either be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the parents’ role in the events in question. If the parents were present and knowingly, actively provided alcohol to minors, they will generally be charged with a Class E felony - the relevant statute bars anyone from “sell[ing], ship[ping], deliver[ing] or giv[ing]” alcohol to a minor, and a guilty verdict will mean a fine of up to $3,500 and a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months. While a first offense may yield a lesser sentence, banking on this possibility is an extremely bad idea.

By comparison, parents whose house is used for underage drinking with their knowledge (or it is found that they should have known), and/or failing to try to either stop the use of alcohol or break up the party altogether, will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which can carry up to a year in jail as a sentence, even for a first offense. Even more serious consequences can be forthcoming if children under age 16 were present during an underage drinking situation. Many times, people think that a misdemeanor is somehow not a serious offense, and with a social hosting case, this is just not accurate.

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