ACLU of Connecticut Offers Testimony Against Bill That Would Infringe on Privacy

May 13, 2003 12:00 am

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HARTFORD–The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut today testified before the state’s General Assembly urging lawmakers to reject a bill currently under consideration that would give the state prosecutor’s office the right to issue investigative subpoenas without reasonable cause for suspicion.

“We have been concerned about investigative subpoenas for years now. Each year, this bill comes up before Connecticut General Assembly and each year we have to battle to keep it from being passed,” said Teresa Younger, Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut, who testified today before lawmakers.

“Now more than in the past, the citizens of Connecticut need to be concerned about the state overstepping it’s bounds and going on fishing expeditions into our personal lives. This is an issue of privacy and checks and balances for everyone.”

Senate Bill 969 was recently voted out of the joint Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a vote before the entire General Assembly.

Other groups opposed to passage of S.B. 969 include the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Office of Chief Public Defender.

Younger warned that the bill would effectively repeal the Fourth Amendment by greatly expanding the coercive powers of prosecutors over individual citizens prior to filing of any criminal charges. The bill, opponents charge, would even allow a prosecutor to subpoena a juvenile without notice to, or consent from, the child’s parent or guardian. In addition, it does not allot adequate time for indigent individuals to consult with a court-appointed lawyer.

“States attorneys are seeking investigative subpoena power at the same time that they seek to relax the standards for convening an investigator grand jury. Clearly they want unbridled power to compel testimony from citizens for investigative purposes without limitation or inconvenience,” said Gerard Smyth, Chief Public Defender for Connecticut, who also testified today before lawmakers.

“Prosecutors already have sufficient power to investigate crimes through investigative grand juries, but they seldom use it,” Smyth added. “No prosecuting official should be given such broad power over investigating citizens outside the framework of grand jury proceedings.”

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