COVID-19: How We are Serving and Protecting Our Clients

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Lambo--300x225When COVID-19 hit Connecticut first responders were reluctant to make traffic enforcement stops due to possible exposure to COVID-19.   Traffic enforcement is a low priority in law enforcement.  Additionally, the government shut down lead to many people staying at home and a 70% reduction in mobility in our state.   Many have noticed empty roads and have taken advantage of this to drive at very fast speeds.

Nationwide there has been an increase in fatalities in motor vehicle accidents apparently due to the rapid speeds that people are driving.  Also, our state is facing record budget deficits due to COVID-19 so speeding ticket enforcement has once again become a high priority.  While we are freeing convicted criminals from our jails, the police are out in mass giving speeding tickets to otherwise law-abiding citizens.

Police are back out in full force and seem to have lost their fear of interacting with the general public.  With new COVID-19 fears, there is little opportunity to “talk your way out of a ticket” when you get pulled over.  The state needs revenue and people are driving fast so that the police are just issuing citations. Most of the people calling our office over the last two weeks were alleged to have been driving over 80 mph.   Remember over 85 mph is reckless driving per se in Connecticut and a criminal offense.

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On April 17, 2020, Governor Lamont signed Executive Order 7BB which required the use of cloth face coverings in public when close contact is unavoidable starting April 20, 2020.  The order remains in effect as of this writing.  Anyone watching the news or venturing out into the public will note that the mask issue is highly divisive.  People are gathering in state capitals all over the nation to protest stay at home orders and similar mask restrictions.

There are been many violent confrontations in retail stores when shoppers attempted to enter without maks throughout the United States, including one case where a security guard was shot by someone who was not wearing a mask and who refused to leave.  The issue of having to wear a mask is a highly emotional and volatile issue.

People Should Wear a Mask to Protect Others 

Handcuffs-orange-GMB-geo-tagged--300x225Covid-19 has resulted in significant shifts in mobility.  People are working at home, bars and restaurants are closed and social gatherings are canceled for the time being.   Law enforcement has also focused on having minimal contact with the general public and prioritized important cases involving violence. As a result, traffic enforcement stops are down 95% and DUI arrests are also down significantly across the state. Domestic violence reports are up significantly as well as residential and commercial burglary and theft.

Although our courts remain closed, our office remains open and we are here to help you if you have any legal questions.   We expect that the criminal courts will reopen sometime in June although, perhaps using virtual technology if we are lucky.

Arrests for Violation of Public Health Emergency – C.G.S. § 19a-131a 

court-300x225As the criminal court closure has extended now for over 6 weeks, and with no end in sight many clients who have pending diversionary programs are being adversely impacted.  Given the tight job market, having a pending criminal case could make finding a new job more difficult or impossible.  Also, many clients may have to renew green cards or have other immigration situations which may be adversely affected. In this blog, I am going to give some guidance for what our clients and others can do about the situation.

Courts Have Been Closed Since March 20 

Connecticut criminal courts have been closed since March 20 with no firm date or plan to re-open the Courts yet confirmed. (Courts have been handling only arrangements).  Clients who have pending cases and are enrolled in diversionary programs which as the accelerated rehabilitation program, family violence education program, and pretrial alcohol education program and others may have already passed their originally assigned termination dates for these programs when the charges could have been dismissed.  Because the courts are closed there is no one to verify that you have successfully completed the requirements of the program and no judge to enter an order dismissing your charges.

Stamford-City-Hal-GMB--300x225As everyone knows Governor Lamont shut down all large gatherings on March 20, 2020, in the State of Connecticut.  Accordingly, the Judicial Branch started to close courts and limit functions to only handle essential matters characterized as priority 1 business matters which include domestic violence arraignments, arraignments of people who are locked up overnight for an arraignment and emergency motions.

Stamford and Norwalk Courts are Closed 

The Stamford,  Norwalk, and Bridgeport G.A. criminal courts are both totally closed and all priority 1 matters are being handled at the Judicial District in Fairfield at Bridgeport.  If you are arrested during the COVID-19 emergency for a domestic violence matter give us a call and we will give you advice on the best procedure to handle your arraignment in Bridgeport and we can appear with you.

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COVID-19 has brought a lot of economic hardship and suffering to our state.  Many people are out of work and waiting for unemployment checks to arrive that have been delayed for weeks.  I have spoken with may clients who are under financial duress.   Relief is coming for most in the form of the economic stimulus checks from the federal government or $1,200 per person and an additional $500 per child.  In the meantime, Governor Lamont has enacted numerous executive orders to assist the citizens of Connecticut.

Many of my criminal law clients are unaware of Governor Lamont’s executive orders concerning rent relief and how they may affect them.  I wanted to write this blog to summarize some of the recent orders and how they can help people who are struggling to get through the next few weeks until we can start to re-open the economy and people are can get back to work.  I am primarily a Stamford criminal lawyer but I have extensive experience in civil litigation and have even argued some cases in our State Supreme Court. I would be happy to answer any questions that you have concerning your rights as a tenant.  Here is a brief summary of the order and how it affects tenant’s rights.

1. – No Evictions For Non-Payment of Rent until After July 1, 2020

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Dometic violence arrests were on the rise in Connecticut even before the COVID-19 crisis.  Since people have been locked in their homes doing social distancing – arrest rates for domestic violence have sky-rocketed.   In this blog, I want to talk a little bit about what is driving this spike in domestic violence arrests and what clients can do to be prepared to get their cases resolved favorably when the Courts re-open after the crisis.

COVID-19 Crisis is Creating a Lot of Family Pressure 

The COVID-19 is putting everyone under emotional and psychological stress.  This stress is effecting some families adversely.

Justia-Post-300x225I hope that everyone is staying healthy and standing strong against this virus.

Previously the judicial branch had closed the Norwalk G.A. #20 courthouse and transferred all matters to the Stamford G.A. #1 court due to COVID-19.  Only priority 1 business matters are being handled – such as domestic violence and in-custody criminal arraignments.  All other cases have been postponed.

Yesterday, due to a COVID-19 exposure to a staff member at G.A. #1, the judicial branch closed the  Stamford G.A. #1 court until further notice for deep cleaning and transferred all matters to the Fairfield Judicial District Court at 1061 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604, which will handle all matters for Fairfield County going forward and remains the only court open in Fairfield County.

We are facing a national and worldwide crisis.  Everyone has their own role to play in facing the challenges which we all must face to get through this crisis while trying to keep the loss of life at a minimum.  Make no mistake many lives will be lost and hundreds of people are dying every day.

Reckless Endangerment 

Recently, a man who was exposed to COVID-19 in Stamford left his place of self-quarantine and assaulted his girlfriend. By committing this act he placed his girlfriend, first responders, and court personnel at danger of contracting the virus.  The Stamford Police are considering charging the man with the crime of reckless endangerment.

We are seeing COVID-19 related domestic violence arrests from clients who are under a lot of stress and pressure and stuck at home in close quarters with each other. In this blog, I am going to examine this situation and give some suggestions on how to manage the problem.

COVID-19 is with us for the foreseeable future. It represents an existential threat to our health. It will likely lead to severe economic disruptions and perhaps the most significant financial crisis of our lifetimes. There is more than enough stress to go around. On top of this, people are getting fired and laid off from work left and right due to the orders to close down our state economies to slow down the transmission of the virus. There are a lot of changes here going on at once and a lot of worrying about external stress factors beyond our control. If you combine all of this stress with people being locked into their homes, it seems inevitable that tensions are going to rise to a boiling point.

Everyone is going through the same stressful situation. While you and your family members may have differing opinions about the level of social distancing needed to protect your family and other important matters, it is essential to resolve any disputes in a calm, peaceful and non-violent manner. If you feel like you are ready to explode because you can’t take the stress, I would suggest that you go out for a long walk and meditate about something else. Perhaps it will be a better time to discuss the issue the following day.

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