Category: Connecticut News

Connecticut Turns Jailhouse Witness Bill Into Official State Legislature

Connecticut is the first state in the country to sign SB 1098 and make it law. This law requires prosecutors to investigate information on jailhouse witnesses.

It mandates the states’ Office of Policy and Management Criminal Justice Division to create a system that helps track any information on all jail houses that prosecutors can access.

State Campaign Director for the Innocence Project, Michelle Feldman, helped create the bill. She said it was important for prosecutors to have access to information whether the person was reliable or not. She felt this new law would add an additional layer of transparency in how the information given by jailhouse witnesses would be used.

Support For New Jail & Arrest Regulations

This law was supported by many people in the state, including Cheryl White-Mink, who told the judiciary committee that her uncle Alfred Swinton had to serve 19 years out of a 60-year sentence for a crime that he had not committed. Swinton had been arrested in 2001 for allegedly murdering Carla Terry. He got convicted because of the testimony of a jailhouse witness who had lied to the court. He was not able to obtain a bail bond for murder for his alleged crimes. He was freed from jail in 2018 after DNA evidence was re-examined.

The Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union and the Chief Public Defender also supported this law. It gives many defense attorneys the right to get detailed information about a jailhouse witness and request a hearing based on how reliable the testimony is. As per this law, prosecutors will have to give information on the witnesses’ criminal background, any pending cases they have, any cases for which they testified, and how it benefited them. All this information will have to be given within 45 days of the defense attorney asking for it.

If any defense attorney requests a hearing on the witness, the evidence and testimony provided will have to be reviewed. The review will also include whether it was obtained by any other means other than from the defendant.

Feldman said that many jailhouse informants are strongly motivated to lie, and hence it was important to have transparency at all levels in the system. The newly signed Jailhouse Witness Law would mean that jailed informants would be up to a lot more scrutiny when it comes to their testimonials in other cases.

Potential Concerns About The Jailhouse Witness Law

However, some prosecutors believed that his law could raise other problems. They thought this law would require every potential jailhouse witness to be questioned by a judge.

The Innocence Project states that the new law will only help prevent cases like Swinton’s and Miguel Roman, who had to spend 20 years in jail after being punished for murdering his girlfriend. In this case, the conviction was based on a jailhouse witness’s testimony that Roman confessed to the crime when he was being held while waiting for his trial. The witness said he did not receive anything for his cooperation in the trial. But prosecutors dismissed his larceny charges and recommended time served after the trial. However, after two decades, it was proved through DNA testing that Roman was not the killer.

This new law was signed by Gov. Ned Lamont and is a part of the Innocence Project’s work to exonerate innocent people and address the system’s flaws that lead to wrongful convictions in the first place.

Consult With a Connecticut Bail Bondsman For More

Like the new Jailhouse Witness Law, Connecticut Bail Bonds Group always puts justice and the needs of its local clients first. If you or a loved one has been arrested in Hartford County, contact our bail bondsmen today.

Connecticut State Employees Still Without Medical Leave For Families

Businesses in Connecticut are forced to abide by the state’s latest Paid Family Medical leave regulations. However, Connecticut has had trouble getting this provision to work for non-unionized employees. This would include local bail bondsmen serving the Tolland County area, like Connecticut Bail Bonds Group.

Over 60,000 businesses enrolled with Connecticut to begin a compulsory deduction of 0.5% in payroll for the non-unionized and private sector employees.

The leader of the Republican House, Vincent Candelora, gave his opinion about this provision in a letter to Kevin Lembo, State Comptroller. In the letter, he said that Connecticut did not have a process to implement payroll deductions on its own. He mentioned that this was proof that this program was not fully ready to be rolled out yet. He reiterated that these kinds of problems with the program, along with COVID-19, supported the theory that it should not have been implemented so soon.

Further, a spokesperson from Lembo’s office stated that their financial software cannot correctly apply the deductions. Hence, a decision had been taken to further delay the process till a customized solution could be found to ensure that employees that did not qualify for this provision were not charged.

What’s Next For Connecticut’s Non-Union Employees?

As a result, all non-union payroll deductions will not start in the second pay cycle in the month of April. A 1% catch-up for each pay cycle is expected to get the retroactive total back to 01 January.

Republicans last year had constantly asked Gov. Ned Lamont to further push the implementation of the paid family medical leave program, stating it would create a lot of stress for businesses and cash-strapped residents. With this in mind, it was decided to again delay paid medical leave for families of state employees.

The Fight For Paid Medical Leave Continues

The Connecticut Paid Leave Authority has now held a press conference to encourage over 44,000 businesses to abide by this new paid family medical leave program.

Criteria For Bail Bonds Changed For Low Income Households

A committee of State Superior Court judges has unanimously approved a new rule that allows low-income defendants to post 10% of their bond as cash to a court or police department. This applies only to bonds where the amount is $20,000 or less.

Many detractors of the decision feel that this decision circumvents the General Assembly’s will, and will mostly cost the state’s bond industry close to 50% of their business.

Alex Tsarkov, Sentencing Commission Executive Director, stated that it was a huge change and would need a long time in the legislature. Many people who need the bond, contact a bail bondsman, and the bond industry benefits. The difference with the 10% cash bond decision is that they will get it back once the case is completed.

This change to bail bonds regulations took effect from January 2020 onward. This decision will help multiple individuals who have been stuck in jail just because they could not afford a bail bondsman while their case was pending.

Tsarkov felt that the amount of money a person had or did not have should have no role in deciding whether he/she can be detained or not.

What Bail Bondsmen Should Expect Next

According to the Bail Association of Connecticut (BAC), the bond industry in the state can lose close to 50% of its business because of this decision.

They challenged the logic behind the change and claimed that it will cause defendants to abscond instead of appearing in court and that any money that gets collected will end up in state coffers.

Andrew Marocchini, President of the BAD, said that while the entire reason for this change was to help the indigent, he felt the 10% option did nothing to help them. He felt that while 50% of the bail bonds industry could get wiped out by this decision, it would be easier to handle it if it actually helped people.

Marocchini feels that very few defendants will be able to give the 10%. For a bond of $10,000, a bondsman would usually get $850 from the client that he/she can pay in installments. Once the case is over, the bondsman could keep the money as a fee for his services.

If his client misses court, the bondsman would be able to put the remaining money and look for him/her to make sure any further court appearances are not missed. In some cases, relatives could put up collaterals, thereby making it even more difficult for the defendant to flee.

Marocchini felt that with the new rule, the defendant had no incentive to show up in court for the case after the 10% was given.

Connecticut’s 10% Bail Rule Expanded

As per a law passed in 2017, defendants can already use the 10% cash option if their bond was less than $20,000, provided a judge permitted it. However, very few defendants used this option. The Sentencing Commission requested a change in the state law in 2017 to let all defendants with bonds of $20,000 or less use the 10% option. However, the legislature agreed to it only after getting the approval of the judge.

This change was recommended by the Rules Committee of the Superior Court. This judicial body was made completely of judges, letting the defendants automatically have the 10% cash option if they want to.

If the defendant chose this option, the court would hold the money and return it to the defendant at the end of the case. In case the defendant didn’t show up, then the money would be forfeited, and the individual would be responsible for the other 90% of the bond as well.

After calculating bail rates, depending on the circumstances of the individual, many individuals and families found that the 10% cash option was a better fit for their finances. Others, particularly those with higher bonds set, found that it was still more beneficial to consult with a local bondsman.

Consult With A Hartford Bail Bonds Agent

In some cases, the new regulations for bail bonds will be a great help, particularly for lower-income families and the destitute. However, bail amounts can vary greatly depending on the crime, prior offenses, and your risk of skipping court. If you are uncertain about your options for bail, our compassionate bondsman and bonds team are here to help you learn more about bail financing and payment options that may be right for you. Call today for more information.

State’s Medical Marijuana Plan Adds 5 New Treatable Conditions

The state’s medical marijuana program got five new conditions for treatment at the latest Board of Physicians meeting.

Treating More Conditions With Marijuana

The program currently has over 33,000 patients and 1,111 prescribing physicians. The conditions added to this program include:

  • Interstitial Cystitis for adults only
  • Intractable Neuropathic Pain that is unresponsive to standard patients
  • Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome
  • Tourette Syndrome
  • Vulvodynia and Vulvar Burning

These five conditions that are getting included in the Medical Marijuana Program’s regulations should get approved by the Regulations Review Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly.

What About Patients With Chronic Pain?

However, chronic pain did not make it to this list. Instead, the committee tabled the decision about adding it to the list for a meeting in the future. Despite a pitch to include it by Brian Essenter, a medical marijuana counselor, the board took this decision.

Essenter informed the board that multiple states allow treating chronic pain with medical marijuana.

Essenter stated that with the cracking down on opioid prescriptions in the state because of overdose, patients who suffer from chronic pain are looking at alternatives.

He mentioned that many other states had successfully weaned patients off opioid prescriptions with medical marijuana. He also stated that adding chronic pain to the list was not about getting high but about improving the patients’ quality of life.

How Connecticut Arrest Numbers Could Impact the Decision

The records for marijuana bail bonds and bail for other drug charges show that Connecticut has seen its fair share of drug abuse. However, there is potential for the benefits of medical marijuana in cases of chronic pain to outweigh those possible negatives of drug abuse.

Board members, however, said that the problem with adding chronic pain as a condition to the list was that its definition needed to be further narrowed down.

Dr. Jonathan Kost stated that they needed to take care about not keeping the definition too broad. He and other board members felt they needed more time to determine whether any specific conditions could be connected to the category of chronic pain.

The next meeting to discuss adding chronic pain to the list will be announced once the date is decided. All officials involved will further discuss potentially adding chronic pain to the list during that meeting. They will also discuss whether the condition should be further narrowed and clearly defined before adding it to the program.

Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said that she wanted to thank all the people who testified at the meeting and the Board of Physicians for their thoughtful discussion. She mentioned that the program relied on the guidance and advice that was received from the medical community, which includes the Board. Michelle was happy with how the state’s program had developed to support over 30,000 patients suffering from severe conditions.

The Future of Medical Marijuana Accessibility in Connecticut

While all efforts to make recreational marijuana legal have been paused in the legislature in the state for the last few years, the Medical Marijuana Program has grown considerably during that period in Connecticut. It today treats over 30 medical problems.

Nine new dispensaries were approved in New Haven, Stamford, Meriden, Westport, Torrington, Newington, Groton, Windham, and Mansfield. Seagull stated that one of the main goals of setting up additional dispensaries was to ensure all patients that need medical marijuana don’t have to go very far to get it.

Is 2021 Connecticut’s Year For Legalization of Marijuana?

With a large number of neighboring states legalizing marijuana and a projected state budget that is deficit hungry for new sources of revenue, many advocates feel that 2021 will be the year when Marijuana will be legalized in Connecticut, which could coincide with other recent changes to legal processing and bail laws reported by bondsmen serving Hartford County and the surrounding areas of Connecticut.

Legalization has seen momentum on a few fronts across the country. New Jersey was one of the few states that legalized recreational marijuana. Massachusetts legalized it 4 years ago. As per Gov. Ned Lamont, Rhode Island and New York may follow suit soon.

State Deficit Could Impact Legalization Bid

The state of Connecticut is facing a projected $1.2 billion deficit in its budget. A study from economists in October 2020 at the University of Connecticut suggested that legalizing cannabis can help generate a large amount of tax revenue for the state. The projected revenue is about $952 million in the first five years itself. Gov. Lamont, who has supported the legalization of marijuana, previously said that they had not ruled it out as a revenue option.

There is also considerable public support for the legalization of marijuana. A Pew Research Center survey in 2019 showed that about two-thirds of Americans believe that marijuana should be legal in the country. This would also eliminate the need for bail for marijuana charges and open the way to potential release for prior offenders.

Sen. Gary Winfield, who has previously been at the forefront of efforts to legalize cannabis in earlier legislative sessions, said that barring any unforeseen problems like the pandemic, the substance may be legalized during the 2021 session.

The election’s outcome has also given supporters more flexibility in guiding a bill to legalize marijuana through a legislative process. The Democrats have picked up seats in both chambers. As a result, they have a wider majority on the individual legislative committees where the bill needs to be cleared.

Adam Wood, co-director of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana, stated that he thinks the additions in the Senate and the House would be extremely helpful in their efforts to legalize marijuana.

Wood stated that the officials should let revenue from marijuana sales be a part of the state’s post-COVID recovery plan. He, however, also put a lot of stress on public health concerns.

Concerns For Legalization of Recreational Marijuana

Some Connecticut lawmakers have concerns about the message that legalizing marijuana would send. Sen Jon Kissel, who is the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said that many communities are already struggling with an opioid epidemic. With Heroin already out there, he was apprehensive about legalizing marijuana and regulating it. He felt that legalizing marijuana could send a mixed message to people.

Kissel said many residents in his district in Enfield, which borders Massachusetts, did not want marijuana dispensaries in their communities. He also mentioned that he was not majorly against the use of marijuana and thought that it was better than alcohol in many ways. But he also felt that it was one more thing that did not enhance society.

It stays to be seen whether Marijuana will be finally legalized in Connecticut in 2021 or not. How the next few months pan out can give us a fair idea.