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Everyone thinks that Fotis Dolus killed his estranged wife. After all, that is what the state alleges he did in the arrest warrant charging him with her murder.  Why even bother with the trial?  Let’s face it the crime he was accused of was so horrible and unthinkable no one wants to forgive him or even consider that he may somehow “get away with it” like OJ Simpson did.  Should the presumption of innocence be reduced when the allegations are particularly egregious?  Is everyone entitled to the same presumption of innocence?  Shouldn’t we have to wait until the time of trial to have a determination of guilt or innocence?

Before I get any further in this blog, I know that there are strong passions involved in this case and I don’t condone anyone who commits a violent act against anyone, particularly the mother of their children.  I am not writing to support Fotis Dulos or condone his actions.   I am writing to question what has happened to the presumption of innocence and if the general public really understands what that concept means?

The Presumption of Innocence 

Lady-Justice--e1581224208144-225x300I am writing this blog article for two reasons. First, there is tremendous interest in the Jennifer Dulos case and I wanted to provide some useful information about the case.  Secondly, I wanted to use this case as a teaching example about how the crime of conspiracy is a powerful tool that the state uses to get convictions in situations where the state would otherwise never have enough evidence to get a conviction for the actual crime.  Often the state can get a conviction for conspiracy to commit a crime where it lacks the evidence to prove who actually committed the crime. Conspiracy is a powerful weapon that the state can employ to crack cases and get convictions and get co-defendants to start to cooperate with the state.  The threat of conspiracy charges is often used to get suspects to talk to investigators and provide useful information.  Anyone who is a subject in a conspiracy investigation should retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney and refuse to answer any questions.

The Dulos Case 

Everyone knows that Fotis Dolus was charged with the murder of his estranged wife Jennifer Dulos.  Fotis Dulos committed suicide and we will never see him brought to trial.  Many people have commented on social media that this may prevent the prosecution of the co-conspirators.  This is not accurate.  The State does not need to have Fotis Dulos in order to prosecute and convict the co-conspirators.  In fact, if Fotis Dulos remained alive it would have been entirely possible for him to have been acquitted of the murder of Jennifer Dulos and the co-defendant’s to be convicted of conspiracy to commit her murder.  In this blog, we are going to have a brief discussion of the law of conspiracy and why conspiracy is often a much easier case for the state to prove than the crime itself.

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“The Police didn’t read me my rights!”

This is one of the most common comments Connecticut criminal lawyers hear from our clients who have been arrested by Police.  I hear this at least once a week.  So, I decided to write a blog about the topic so I can share it with my clients when they have this question.

My clients are really concerned because often the police never read them their Miranda rights. People think if the police did not read them their rights that means we can get the case against them tossed out.  The short answer is generally no but it depends on the specific circumstances of your case.  It is always best to consult with an experienced Stamford criminal attorney regarding your case, especially before you answer any police questions.

Domestic-Violence-new-Photo-300x200-300x200As we start the new year 2020 the top story of 2019 in domestic violence law has been the case of Jennifer Dulos.   I predict that the Dulos case is going to have profound and lasting effects on domestic violence cases in Connecticut for years to come.  On December 31, 2019 the lead story  in newspapers across the State reported that the term “Jennifer Dulos” was the number one most searched term in Google for the entire State of Connecticut in 2019 by a huge factor.  Simply put, the public is fascinated, outraged and shocked by the case and this kind of widespread attention is going to have a effect in the Judicial Branch on how domestic violence cases are handled.  I want my clients who have domestic violence cases pending in the local Courts to be aware of the Dulos case and what I call the “Dulos effect.” I made a companion video on YouTube which you can watch here.

>>     Brief Background of the Dulos Case 

Jennifer Dulos suddenly disappeared in May of 2019 from her home in New Canaan.  At the time she and her husband Fotis Dulos were embroiled in a highly contested and nasty divorce battle in Stamford Superior Court before Judge Heller.   Fotis Dulos has since been charged with tampering with evidence along with his girlfriend for driving to Hartford on the night of Jennifer’s disappearance and dumping garbage bags containing clothes with Jennifer’s blood on them in the garbage.  There are a lot of details about this case and I would encourage you to do a google search if you are interested in all the particulars.  For the purposes of this blog article all we need to focus on are the following important highlights:

consitution-1-300x185Over 28 years of practice in criminal law a lot of clients have told me that they don’t want to participate in a diversionary program because they “don’t want to admit guilt of a crime they didn’t do.” I’m writing this blog article to let people know that applying for a diversionary program is not an admission of guilt and does not mean that you are guilty.  In Connecticut there are a lot of diversionary programs for all sorts of things.  Over the years the main diversionary program – the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program has been joined by an ever expanding list of diversionary programs.  Top Connecticut criminal lawyers will tell you that in most cases it is usually a better idea to use a diversionary program than take your case to trial.  Over the years a lot of my clients have resisted the idea of participating in a diversioary program because they feel that applying for a program is an admission of guilt.  We are going to explore this in greater detail.

>    What is a Diversionary Program?          

The normal progression of a criminal case involves an arraignment, pre-trial negotiations, and a jury or bench trial where a determination of guilt or innocence is made.  This all assumes that a plea bargain is not made where the accused agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for a reduced charge or an favorable agreed upon disposition.  In practice 99% of criminal cases in Connecticut are resolved without trials either through diversionary programs or plea bargains. A diversionary program takes a crminal case off the trial path and diverts it into a special program that can result in a dismissal of all charges upon successuful completion of the program.  If you apply for a diversionary program you will never have a trial and no one will ever determine if the charges against you were valid or not.

police-line-1-300x225Everyone who gets a traffic ticket that does not require a court appearance in Connecticut is faced with the somewhat misleading language on the back of the ticket which states “If you are charged with a motor vehicle infraction or violation and you choose to pay the amount due to the Centralized Infractions Bureau, no points will be assessed against your operator’s license by the Connecticut Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.” DO NOT fall victim to this misleading language.

You Should Never Plead Guilty or (No Contest) to a Speeding or Traffic Ticket

No matter how tempting the offer of “no points” sounds never mail in that ticket and pay the fine. You will always do better if you plead not guilty and go to Court. Even if you can not afford to hire a Connecticut speeding ticket lawyer to fight your case you should still show up yourself and contest the ticket. The reason why is even though “no points” will be assessed against you the conviction will be noted on your permanent Connecticut driving history and insurance companies will be able to charge you increased premiums on the basis of your conviction for a moving violation for years to come. Obviously the more violations you have the more the insurance company charges you through higher insurance premiums. Generally, since the cost to hire a traffic ticket lawyer to fight the ticket is only a few hundred dollars it makes good economic sense to retain an attorney to fight the ticket and keep your driving record clean.

Stamford-Police-Station-300x225Recently Connecticut implemented an online ticket review program that allows you an opportunity to enter a not guilty plea to your traffic infraction and then apply to have a State’s Attorney review your case online. At first glance this seems like a great idea, it can save you a trip to Court and gives you an opportunity to give your side of the story. A lot of my clients are tempted to write in a big long explanation to the State’s Attorney without realizing that often what they are submitting is an admission of guilt and will not lead to the State’s Attorney dropping or nolling the charge. In fact, statistics show that since its inception the vast majority of cases submitted to the online review program have only resulted in offers of reduced fines and only a small fraction have resulted in offers to nolle or drop the case. Let’s drill down a little bit on how the program works and why I recommend that you should never use this new program.

How Does The Online Ticket Review Program Work?

The program is fairly simple and on its face makes perfect sense. The problem is that it is a program designed to help move the huge quantity of traffic ticket cases more efficiently for the State. When you plead not guilty to a traffic infraction or violation that does not require a Court appearance though the centralized infractions bureau you are automatically afforded an opportunity to participate in the online ticket review program. When you use the online program you can fill out an online dispute form and submit a written narrative explaining your side of the story and also upload any documents supporting your position. The State’s Attorney will review your submission along with the materials provided by the arresting police officer and then make an “offer” to resolve your case. In the vast majoriety of cases the offer be a reduction in the amount of the fine – not a reduction in the charge to a non-moving violation or a nolle or droppoing of the case.

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A vast proportion of criminal cases in Connecticut are resolved through either effective negotiations by Connecticut Criminal Lawyers or through the utilization of diversionary programs. A lot of the criminal cases I handle each year wind up getting nolled or dismissed, this is especially the case with first time offenders. Frequently, the State’s Attorney will offer to nolle the charge. Nolle is a Latin term which essentially means to stop prosecuting the case. Generally, a nolle is a favorable outcome and results in the eventual dismissal of the charges against you. However, there are some circumstances where a nolle is not in the client’s best interest. The purpose of this blog post is to give a brief overview of the differences between a nolle and a dismissal and explain some of the pitfalls that can result from a nolle. Nothing can take the place of the legal advice and counsel of a Connecticut Criminal Lawyer so please contact our office for a free consultation is you have any questions about your specific case.

What is a Nolle?

A nolle is a Latin term for the prosecutor’s decision not to prosecute a case. The State does not have the resources to prosecute every case and for various reasons may decide not to go forward with a particular case. Generally, a good criminal defense lawyer will work to convince the State’s Attorney to nolle your case by highlighting any weakness in the State’s case and providing mitigation materials to show evidence of your good character.

We Have Many People Calling Us About Internet Arrest Articles 

Lately we have been receiving a large number of inquiries from people who have had their Stamford, Darien, Greenwich, Norwalk, Westport, Fairfield and New Canaan criminal cases dismissed but still are finding the old arrest articles are on the internet and causing them problems with job searches and ruining their reputation.   Yes we can help you to get these nasty articles removed and manage the situation.

Technology is constantly changing and the world of media is rapidly moving.  Just a few years ago most arrest reports were published in print in the so called “Police Blotter” section which only a few local people would read who are hungry for gossip and then they would throw away the newspaper and forget about it.   The problem is that with shifts in trends towards the internet and digital media the old fashioned newspaper is quickly becoming unprofitable.

police-line-1-300x225     Many of my clients are terrified for obvious reasons when they are contacted by the Police and then often try to “talk their way out” of the situation.  My objective in writing this blog post is to give some quick advice on what to do if you are the subject of a police investigation or a road side stop.   Often, the Police have no case they can prove against you, only suspicion and conjecture which is not going to make a case stick in Court.   They use manipulation, scare tactics and coercive methods to induce you to talk and give them admissions which will give them a solid case out of nothing.   DO NOT fall for this trick.    I am going to give you 3 easy to remember and simple rules to follow when dealing with the police that will help you avoid letting your own mouth seal the case against you.  After 27 years of criminal defense I can’t count how many times I have been contacted by someone who is the subject of a police investigation and after I told the police that my client would not cooperate that was the last thing we ever heard about that case.   The reason is because the police never had enough evidence to file for a warrant and were just hoping to bring my client in and get them to make an admission.

Rule #1 – I will not answer any questions.  I want to speak to my lawyer.

Always remember rule #1 – when ever you are confronted by the police no matter what they threaten you with always tell them you want to speak with a lawyer and that you refuse to answer any questions.  Of course you must give them your name and address and ID but that is the end of the conversation.  The 5th amendment provides that no person in a criminal case shall be complelled to be a witness against themselves.  This is a very powerful right.  USE IT!   You have the right to have a lawyer present before you answer any questions (of course we are not going to answer any questions when I get there either).   The police will normally get really stressed out and say stuff like “we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way” when you assert the 5th amendment.  That’s right its going to be hard for the police because you are going to keep your mouth shut and not say anything until you speak with your lawyer first.   I don’t care if the police threaten to tow your car, raise your bond higher, go harder on you, take away your phone, etc. it does not matter.   No matter what they say do not answer any questions.  Just keep saying I want to speak to a lawyer.

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