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Posted on in Violent Crimes

CT defense lawyerMost of U.S. law hinges around the idea that the Constitution protects the right to free speech, and in the strong majority of situations, a person can say what they wish without fear of reprisal. However, there are some rare situations in which mere words can be punished, especially when they communicate conduct that might be threatening in itself. Being charged with threatening in the first or second degree has become more common than it used to be, especially in situations involving bullying or domestic violence, and the consequences can be severe.

There Are Limits to Free Speech

While most people may think that speech is only punished under authoritarian regimes, the reality is that U.S. law has had what it calls time, place, and manner restrictions on free speech since the beginning - particularly when it comes to what is called ‘fighting words.’ The fighting words doctrine is an idea developed in 20th-century cases, essentially holding that any kind of speech that is an incitement to “imminent lawless action” or retaliation of any kind is not protected by the First Amendment.

Connecticut courts have also sometimes invoked what is known as the “true threat” doctrine to decide whether or not to charge someone with criminal threatening. A statement is a true threat if it is comprised of words that the speaker intentionally uses to illustrate a present or future wish to inflict bodily harm on another person. The threat must also be genuine - that is, a reasonable person must get the impression that they will soon be the victim of harm if the threat is carried out. Either of these doctrines can be applied to threatening cases, especially in domestic violence matters where there is an enhanced likelihood of threat against the alleged victim.

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Posted on in Violent Crimes

CT defense lawyerLike in any other state, Connecticut does experience its share of violent crime, though it still occurs less often than one might think. At the same time, when someone is arrested and charged with a violent crime, the pressure is on the prosecution to make certain that the right person is convicted. If you have been arrested and charged with any crime of violence, it is crucial that you seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible, as the stakes cannot be higher.

Facing Serious Consequences

A violent crime is any offense involving either bodily injury or the threat of bodily injury, to another person. Some examples, like robbery, can involve the threat of bodily injury being part of committing another criminal offense, but this is not strictly necessary. There is no specific “violent crimes” statute in Connecticut, but many of them are grouped in a similar legal place - in other words, many of them carry the same fines and prison sentences if someone is convicted. Crimes such as assault and battery, kidnapping, domestic violence, murder/manslaughter, sexual assault, and various weapons crimes are just some of the offenses classified as violent in Connecticut.

Violent crimes are generally tried as felonies, and depending on the degree, the resulting jail sentence can be anywhere from 1-10 years for a Class C felony (for example, manslaughter in the second degree), to life without the possibility of parole for a capital felony (murder with special circumstances, such as murder for hire or murder of a child under age 16). While judges do have a degree of discretion in sentencing for many violent crimes, this is not the case for capital felonies, even with Connecticut’s repeal of their death penalty statute in 2012.

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CT defense lawyerViolence is never the answer unless in self-defense. Sometimes, though, things simply happen, and you wind up in the very serious situation of being charged with a violent crime in Connecticut. Violent crimes are the most harshly punished in the state, and even if the victim survives, you may face an extremely severe penalty including years in prison. If you have been charged with a violent crime, you need an experienced attorney on your side as soon as possible.

Violent Crime Receives Stiff Penalties

There are many, many different types of violent crimes, and they come in two types. One type is inherently violent - for example, murder requires violence and bodily harm to be successfully completed. The other type is conditionally violent - an example would be a robbery, which does not necessarily have to involve violence unless the perpetrator wants it to, or finds it necessary. Intent does matter in many crimes, but not all; you would generally be punished for the commission of a violent crime as long as it can be proven that you did so, but demonstrated intent might push your sentence into a higher bracket, so to speak.

Any offense involving bodily harm done to another person will fall under the umbrella of violent crime, but the sentences for such crimes will vary significantly. Crimes involving accidental or incidental violence will often mandate lower sentences than a deliberately violent crime - for example, a conviction in a murder where the victim was less than 16 years old triggers an automatic life sentence, with no possibility of parole, while robberies, which require intimidation but not necessarily violence, can lead to sentences as low as 1 year in prison.

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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 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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