An initial court hearing in a criminal case where the defendant is brought before the court and read the criminal charges being brought against him or her. Typically, after the charges are read, the defendant then enters a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest) to the charges.
A trial held before a judge only. The judge will listen to the facts of the case and make a determination of guilt or innocence as well as setting appropriate penalties. For most states, in a criminal trial, a bench trial may happen if the defendant has waived his or her rights to a jury trial. In a civil trial, both parties in the dispute must agree to waive their rights to a jury.
An expungement is an action that clears individual’s criminal record. An Expungement Pardon allows someone convicted of a crime to have negative legal information removed from their criminal record. You may apply for expungement (erasure of the official criminal record) three years after the date of the disposition of your most recent misdemeanor conviction and/or years after the date of the disposition of your most recent felony conviction. Please be aware that you cannot apply for expungement for one offense and not another - only your full criminal history will be considered for an expungement pardon. Applications for expungement must be sent to the Board of Pardons & Parole: 55 West Main Street - Waterbury, CT 06702.
Depending on the state, certain criminal records may not be eligible to be expunged. These records ineligible for Expungement may be specific to the crime like domestic violence, gun related crimes, driving under the influence, and sexual predator or may be specific to the number of counts of crime in one guilty plea and/or repeated criminal activity. When deciding an Expungement order, situations related to the original crime (youth, first offense, etc.) and the current law-abiding behavior (or not) of the person originally convicted will be taken into consideration. Persons with an expunged record may legally report on an employment application that they have no convictions.
One of a group of crimes found serious enough to warrant more than a year in prison (state or federal). Less serious offenses are known as misdemeanors. Offenses considered serious enough to be in the felony category will vary state by state. Connecticut further classifies felonies by class. Crimes commonly found in the felony category include murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, embezzlement, rape, treason, fraud, grand theft, arson, racketeering, some instances of drug possession, and the third or fourth conviction for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Go to http://www.cga.ct.gov/2005/rpt/2005-r-0192.htm for a list of classes of felonies. In addition to punishment for their crime(s), felons also lose rights in many states in the U.S., such as the right to vote, the right to run for public office, the right to obtain certain licenses, and the right to own or purchase firearms. A felony conviction will also make it difficult to find meaningful employment.
Capital felonies are punishable by execution or life imprisonment. Class A felonies for murder are punishable by 25 to 60 years imprisonment and up to a $20,000.00 fine. Class A felonies other than murder are punishable by 10 to 25 years imprisonment and up to a $20,000.00 fine. Class B felonies are punishable by 1 to 20 years imprisonment and up to a $15,000.00 fine. Class C felonies are punishable by 1 to 10 years imprisonment and up to a $10,000.00 fine.
Grand juries are made up of groups of jurors and a judge who listen to evidence and decide if someone should be charged with a crime. Under Connecticut law, crimes charged by the state after May 26, 1983 are prosecuted by complaint or information instead of grand jury indictment. By law, an investigatory grand jury (a judge, judge referee, or three-judge panel) can be empanelled to conduct investigations of (1) government corruption; (2) Medicaid vendor fraud; (3) racketeering; (4) election law violations; and (5) felonies punishable by more than five years imprisonment, for which the chief state's attorney can show that there is no other means of obtaining information as to whether a crime has been committed or the perpetrator's identity. The applicant must have a reasonable belief that the administration of justice requires an investigation to determine whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. If the applicant is the chief state's attorney or a state's attorney, he also must demonstrate that normal investigatory methods have failed, are likely to fail, or are too dangerous and state the reasons why he believes that a grand jury investigation will lead to a finding of probable cause that a crime was committed.
The process of being formally charged with a crime, typically a serious criminal offense. Indictments are determined by grand juries.
From the U.S. Supreme Court’s Miranda v.Arizona, Miranda Warnings refer to warnings that law enforcement officers must give suspects in custody if they would like to question the suspects and later be legally able to use the answers to those questions as evidence in court. Familiar to many from crime shows on television, Miranda Warnings are as follows: You have the right to remain silent; If you do say anything, what you say can be used against you in a court of law; You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during any questioning; If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire; If you choose to talk to the police officer, you have the right to stop the interview at any time.
One of a group of crimes found to be less serious, typically warranting less severe punishment. Offenses considered misdemeanors will vary by state but may include vandalism, underage drinking, disorderly conduct, trespass, prostitution, public intoxication, and simple assault. Those convicted of a misdemeanor are generally punished with a maximum of one year imprisonment but other possibilities may include probation, community service, and weekend imprisonment or some combination of all of those. Misdemeanors are still serious. In some instances pleading guilty to a misdemeanor will have unintended consequences such as making someone ineligible for a student loan, military service, or other types of employment. Also, misdemeanor convictions for driving under the influence or domestic violence typically escalate in punishment and second or third convictions of the same offense will result in substantially harsher penalties. Go to http://www.cga.ct.gov/2005/rpt/2005-r-0192.htm for a list of misdemeanors by class. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year imprisonment and a $2,000.00 fine.Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a $1,000.00 fine.Class C misdemeanors are punishable by up to three months imprisonment and a $500.00 fine.
Also known as a plea agreement, plea bargains are the agreement in a criminal case in which a prosecutor and a defendant arrange to settle the case against the defendant. Plea bargains are often arranged in exchange for some agreement from the prosecutor as to the punishment and/or a reduction or dismissal of some of the charges against the defendant. In a plea bargain, the defendant may agree to plead guilty or no contest and sometimes to state specifically what the details of the crime were.
Town, City, and Municipal governments are “pre-empted” from enacting ordinances that contradict general state law or address matters in an area in which the state legislature intends to occupy the entire field of regulation. It is up to the courts to determine if a statute preempts an ordinance - courts are to look for statutory authority supporting the enactment, not statutory prohibition against the enactment.
An individual who has been arrested and convicted of multiple criminal offenses that are similar in nature; also known as repeat offender.
Search and Seizure
Refers to the action of law enforcement to search for and take evidence. This search is legally allowed if law enforcement follows the rules of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution and/or if it is reasonable that a person would not consider the place being searched to be a private place. The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Usually, a legal search of a private place will include a warrant signed by a judge but instances of unwarranted search may differ by state and circumstance. A criminal defense attorney can advise you with questions about the legality of search and seizure.
A person who possesses or controls property or is otherwise allowed to be on it is justified in using reasonable physical force to the extent he reasonably believes it to be necessary to stop an aggressor from trespassing or attempting to trespass in or upon it. The owner can use deadly physical force to defend himself or a third party when he believes an aggressor is about to inflict deadly or serious bodily harm, when he reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent the trespasser from attempting to commit arson or any violent crime, or to the extent he reasonably believes it is necessary to stop someone from forcibly entering his home or workplace. A person is not justified in using deadly physical force if he knows he can safely retreat (except from his home or office), surrender possession of property if the aggressor claims to own it, obey a demand not to take action he is not required to take, or if he is the initial aggressor. The test for the degree of force in self-defense requires the jury to view the situation from the defendant's perspective and then decide whether the defendant's belief was reasonable.
The punishment given to a person convicted of a crime. A sentence is ordered by the judge, based on the trial jury’s verdict or the judge's decision if there was a bench trial (no jury). The judge creates the punishment from mandates in state law or federal law (in convictions for federal crimes). Sentence refers to jail or prison time but also to other punishment mandates of the judge for conviction of the crime including fines, community service, restitution, probation, and any other punishment-related details.
Temporary Restraining Order
An order issued by the court intended to help protect victims of domestic violence and children who have been abused, by requiring that the person who committed the violent act stay a certain distance from the residence. If a TRO is in place, the person who committed the violent act will be at risk for immediate arrest should they return to the residence (even if they were invited) and another violent act takes place.
Sometimes referred to as a “petit jury," or small jury, to compare it with a grand jury. Jury trials tend to result from serious crimes and include a judge and a group of jurors, who have been chosen and approved from a pool of people. The jury listens to the evidence presented and finds the facts of the case while the judge interprets the law in the case. At the end of a trial, juries make a decision about the guilt or innocence of the accused. The actual penalty for the crime is set by the judge.
A formal written order approved or signed by a judge or magistrate, allowing law enforcement officials the right to conduct activities. Warrants can be related either to a request to search premises or to arrest someone. A search warrant allows police to enter and search a location for items named in the warrant. Search warrants require that the police have demonstrated to a judge in advance that they have probable cause to believe the items they seek, relating to the investigation of a crime, are in the location for which they requested the warrant. An arrest warrant authorizes police to arrest someone and requires that police have shown a judge or magistrate that a crime has been committed and the person named in the warrant is responsible for the crime.
White Collar Crimes
A class of crimes committed by professionals, business people and public officials that generally involves a deliberate attempt to mislead others. Most white collar crimes involve theft or fraudulent representation for the purpose of obtaining money under misleading circumstances. Crimes that could fall under the “white collar” descriptive class would include, but not be limited to, embezzlement, securities fraud, tax fraud, investment fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, and extortion. Criminal defense attorneys assist clients charged with white collar crimes.