A batch of new Connecticut laws will take effect on Saturday including changes to how minors are handled by the criminal justice system and a requirement that police quickly notify the family of a deceased person.
State laws are typically scheduled to take hold at the beginning of new fiscal quarters and Oct. 1 is no exception. Saturday will bring a slew of new criminal justice policies including provisions of a youth crime bill passed on a bipartisan vote of the legislature this year.
The law grants police the ability to hold young people accused of crimes for an additional two hours for a maximum of eight hours while police seek a detention order. The law also requires quicker arraignments to put child offenders in front of a judge within five days of their arrest.
Another provision of the so-called juvenile justice bill lets judges mandate the electronic monitoring of arrested children who are charged with subsequent offenses while awaiting resolution of an existing case. The law also increases the penalties for certain serious juvenile crimes including murder, sexual offenses and gun-related crimes.
Despite receiving support from both sides of the aisle, the law, a legislative response to a number of high profile incidents since the outset of the pandemic, was also criticized by many lawmakers who felt youth crime would be better addressed through additional resources and funding for troubled children.
However, at a Monday press conference on state crime statistics, Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella said the policies would help law enforcement intervene in the cases of a relatively small number of troubled children in Connecticut.
“I always talk that there’s 100 to 200 kids in this state that we want to save their lives, we want to keep them out of stolen cars, we want to keep them away from these guns, we want to keep them away from drugs,” Rovella said. “Not only are we trying to save their lives but we’re saving the lives and physical injury of our citizens also.”
Another provision of the law requires the state to notify local police chiefs when someone in their town fails a required background check in an attempt to buy a gun.
A separate law taking effect on Saturday will give police investigating a death 24 hours to contact that person’s family. The law also gives the state Inspector General the authority to recommend an officer’s decertification in egregious cases where police fail to notify family members.
The bill was a response to the Bridgeport Police Department’s handling of the deaths of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls on the same night in December. Neither family was notified by police when the two women died in separate incidents.
This weekend’s changes will also affect Connecticut prisons, where a law will take effect requiring people in confinement to receive at least four and a half hours out of their cells each day. The change represents an additional half hour compared to current policy and will increase again in April to a minimum of five hours per day.
Not all the Oct. 1 changes involve the criminal justice system. For instance, a law designing Juneteenth Independence Day as a state holiday goes into effect on Saturday. The legislature voted unanimously this year to officially commemorate June 19, 1865, the day when Union troops freed the nation’s last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Another new law taking effect aims to protect people using online dating services from potential violence by notifying Connecticut users whether the dating platform conducts criminal background checks on its users. The law also prohibits companies from discriminating against domestic violence victims through their hiring practices.