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Supreme Court rules on pretrial conferences

People who are accused of criminal offenses in Connecticut may sometimes have the opportunity to engage in plea bargains with the prosecuction team. These discussions may offer benefits to both prosecutors and defendants. For the former group, an agreement may result in faster processing of a case which reduces the load on the court system. For defendants, a plea deal may often result in a lesser charge being entered which may in turn lead to a lighter set of penalties compared to that associated with the original request.

The discussions that lead to these deals often take place in the private chambers of a judge. As such, they are not offically recognized court proceedings. The State Constitution requires that alleged victims in criminal cases be allowed to attend all court proceedings. In a case involving a teenage boy said to have been sexually assaulted by his former teacher, the defense team requested that the boy be allowed to attend a pretrial conference with the participating attorneys and judge. Because this is not a court proceeding, the judge denied this request.

The case eventually made its way to the State Supreme Court. The high court recently upheld the lower court judge's decision agreeing that only defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges need and therefore be allowed to attend these meetings.

Talking with an attorney after a criminal arrest in Connecticut might help defendants to understand some of the nuances of the defense process like what meetings happen and who may attend them.

Source: CT Post, "Court rules crime victims can't attend plea bargain sessions," Daniel Tepfer, December 1, 2017

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