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b2ap3_thumbnail_shoplift_20191102-040045_1.jpgShoplifting is an all too common crime, but just because it occurs regularly does not mean that law enforcement does not take it seriously. If you have been arrested and charged with shoplifting, you need an experienced attorney on your side to make sure that your rights are protected. Having any kind of charge on your record can cause problems for you later on down the road.

Dollar Amount Matters

Shoplifting falls under Connecticut’s larceny law, in which ‘larceny’ is used as an umbrella term to cover many different theft crimes. Its rough definition is when someone intentionally takes items from a store or other ‘mercantile establishment’ without intending on paying the advertised price for the goods. It can be confusing to some, but if you have been charged with a theft crime, the charge will likely be larceny, even though it is technically a more specific offense.

The value of the goods that are taken usually determines the severity of the charge - there are six different degrees of larceny, with varying degrees of fines and jail time possible. The most common arrests for these types of crimes are the misdemeanor offenses; fourth, fifth and sixth-degree larceny charges do not yield much jail time - less than one year - but the fines can add up, as well as having to comply with any other type of restriction placed on you by the court.

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Posted on in Sex Crimes

CT defense lawyerBeing the victim of a sex crime is one of the most devastating events that can happen to a person. However, being accused of a sex crime that you did not commit can be a terrifying process that can essentially ruin lives. If you are in that position, it is absolutely critical to engage an experienced Stamford sex crimes defense attorney who understands the stakes of your situation.

Different Degrees

Sex crimes in Connecticut run the gamut from Class B misdemeanors to Class A felonies, and they can require varying degrees of intent. Generally, the degree charged will be higher the more evidence of force is present. For example, if someone engages in a sexual act with someone who is legally ineligible to consent, but without force, they will likely be charged with sexual assault in the fourth degree, but if they engage in sex while using force, they will be charged with third-degree assault, or possibly rape, which is sexual assault in the first degree.

Other crimes that are classified as sex crimes include prostitution, pandering, any kind of obscenity with a minor such as child pornography, and any other crime that can be shown to be sexual in nature. Sentences will vary depending on whether or not any penetrative contact happened, and also if there was any type of aggravating factor, such as a weapon or if the crime was committed against a vulnerable person such as a child or an elderly person.

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<pCT defense lawyerWhile Connecticut is known for having decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana at a relatively early point in time, many tend to forget that the state’s law on possession of harder drugs is just as severe as that of any other. Drugs like cocaine and heroin are in a different medical classification group than marijuana, and the effect of possession and use on the public good is far worse. If you have been caught with harder drugs than marijuana, you definitely need to contact an experienced attorney to help you.

Possession and Intent to Distribute

Connecticut law recognizes two types of drug possession crimes - simple possession, and possession with intent to distribute. While intent to distribute is a crime carrying a long jail term, simple possession of hard drugs is still seen as a serious offense even if there is no intent to sell visible. This is because hard drugs have been documented to cause not acute harm not only to users, but to those around them as well. This idea of wanting to protect society, in general, is referred to as public policy, and drug offenses are often referred to as public policy crimes.

State law bars possession of any “narcotic, hallucinogenic or other controlled substance,” unless the person can produce a valid prescription for the substance from a doctor. If someone is caught with these drugs, the penalties can be quite severe because of the public policy considerations - for example, possession of heroin, even as a first offense, can lead to a jail term of up to seven years, plus a $50,000 fine. This is true even of simple possession - the rationale is that the state’s interests in ensuring the health and well-being of its citizens (as much as possible) warrants severe consequences for anyone bringing drugs into the community.

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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 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 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 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 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 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 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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CT defense lawyerCrime evolves right along with law enforcement, utilizing technology and its convenience to commit more offenses. In perhaps the last 30 years, computer-based crimes have become more and more common, creating a need for new laws and different types of enforcement. However, sometimes people with no criminal intent can get caught up in the dragnet. If you have been arrested and charged with a computer crime, you need an experienced Stamford criminal defense attorney to help get you through the process.

Many Different Types

A general computer crime statute exists in Connecticut, covering several possible offenses, including misuse of a computer system, unauthorized access to a computer system, and intentional disruption or denial of computer services. However, computer crimes are somewhat unique in that these are very rarely charged as isolated offenses. They will often be charged in connection with another crime - for example, the use of a computer to harass or threaten another person is still technically a computer crime, despite the fact that harassment can be done without the use of technology.

While the laws surrounding many other offenses also may provide for a civil cause of action, no specific computer crime-related one exists in Connecticut law. If a person believes there may be grounds for a civil lawsuit against the alleged perpetrator, the recommended course of action is to bring suit under the overarching legal theory (for example, if a person was cyberbullied, they would likely bring a civil suit alleging harassment).

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CT  defense lawyerThere are several types of infractions for which your driver’s license may be suspended. This may seem like a blow it would be impossible to recover from, given that the majority of people drive to work, to their obligations, their appointments, and so on. However, it is very possible to get your license reinstated, or in some rare cases, not to lose it in the first place, depending on the type of offense you are convicted of or held liable for.

Unusual Procedure for DUIs

Connecticut has a somewhat unusual procedure for handling alleged driving while intoxicated (DUI) offenses - the criminal case in court, and the administrative license suspension hearing, which is headed by an administrative law judge (ALJ). This is because there are currently more than 20 offenses in Connecticut law which may be punishable by license suspension, and it is more efficient to simply conduct all proceedings of this type through an ALJ. It is possible, if unlikely, to prevail in your court case and still lose your driver’s license, and it is possible, if unlikely, to be convicted of DUI while retaining your license, depending on how each proceeding goes.

Connecticut law provides for a license suspension in connection with the DUI itself, but a refusal to consent to sobriety testing can also be grounds for a suspension. DUI mandates a suspension of at least 1 year for a first-time DUI, going up until a permanent revocation of a driver’s license upon the third offense. Refusal to take sobriety tests will yield different punishments for those under and over 21; for those under adult age, the penalties are between one and five years’ license suspension depending on blood alcohol level, while those over 21 will see suspensions between six months and two years, six months, again dependent on blood alcohol level and number of offenses.

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CT defense lawyerMany parents tend to look past teenage misbehavior as mere pranks, or “boys-will-be-boys” type of hijinks. In reality, young adults can be charged with serious crimes if their behavior warrants it, and the penalties can be severe. If your child has been charged with a crime, it is important that you seek out a Stamford juvenile justice lawyer who is experienced with handling these types of matters.

Juvenile vs. Adult Court

The idea of your child being charged with a crime can be quite distressing to a parent, and it should be taken seriously. However, if your child is charged as a juvenile, it is important to keep in mind that the system is very different than it would be for an adult. Juveniles are not convicted of crimes unless charged as adults; rather, they are ‘adjudicated delinquent.’ Generally, the juvenile system is seen as much more rehabilitative than the punishing adult court system; most offenses are seen as learning opportunities rather than strikes that should haunt a young adult for life.

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CT defense lawyerIn this country, a person is innocent of a crime until they are proven guilty, and they are entitled to a chance to defend themselves from charges. Defendants have rights, and if you have been charged with a crime, you need a Connecticut criminal defense attorney who will fight to protect yours.

Even Innocent People May Need Attorneys

In today’s United States, the criminal justice system can be an intimidating place, especially if you are innocent of the crime you have been charged with. While it is rare to find yourself faced with outright malice from police or prosecutors, it is sadly not uncommon to find an error on their part, which can sometimes put an innocent person in the proverbial crosshairs. Extreme examples have put innocent people behind bars - though none have occurred in Connecticut, there have been hundreds of exonerations of innocent people wrongfully convicted in 37 states since the 1970s.

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Posted on in Sex Crimes

CT defense lawyerNot every rape allegation is true. But every rape allegation is taken seriously, which is why you need an experienced defense attorney if you are charged with committing rape. The following includes nine things you need to know when facing rape charges in Connecticut:

  • It is rape if you force someone to have sex with you. Both parties must willingly consent in order for sex to be consensual. Consent is always a defense to a rape charge (and to other sexual assault charges);
  • It is called forcible rape if the offender uses a weapon or threatens to use a weapon;
  • Rape is a felony offense punishable by at least 10 years in prison. Offenders face an even longer prison sentence if the victim is under 16 years old. An experienced attorney can explain the potential consequences of the crime you have been charged with;
  • The age of consent in Connecticut is 16 years old. This means that anyone younger than 16 is not legally capable of consenting to sexual relations. You can be charged with statutory rape for having sex with someone who is not old enough to consent under state law. However, the criminality of the offense also depends on how old the alleged perpetrator is;
  • It is illegal to have sex with anyone who is mentally incapable of consenting (because of mental disability, disease or intoxication);
  • It can be rape even if the two parties are married. Spouses cannot force their partners to have sex with them. Consent is required no matter the relationship between the parties;
  • Unfortunately, a rape prosecution often turns into a “she said, he said” routine. It is difficult to prove or disprove rape charges when it is one person’s word against the other. The defense can use communications between the alleged victim and perpetrator (like text messages) to prove consent. Both communications before and after the alleged rape can be relevant. Other useful evidence includes DNA and witness statements;
  • Evidence can be excluded from trial if it is not gathered properly. This could help or hurt your defense, depending on what the particular evidence is. Similarly, the charges against you could be dropped entirely if your rights were violated during the arrest or if the evidence is somehow tainted. An experienced attorney can help protect your legal rights; and
  • A rape conviction can affect your future job prospects and your community life. Most likely you will have to list any felony convictions on job applications and you will be publicly registered as a sex offender.

Let Us Help You with Your Case

Please contact the experienced dedicated Stamford rape defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner today if you are charged with committing rape. This is a very serious charge, and you need an experienced to assist you with your case.

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