Topic:
SEX CRIMES; CRIMINAL LAW; LARCENY; FELONIES; SENTENCING; CRIME; CRIMINALS;
Location:
CRIME AND CRIMINALS - PERSISTENT OFFENDERS; CRIMINAL LAW;

OLR Research Report


August 30, 2007

 

2007-R-0481

CONNECTICUT'S PERSISTENT OFFENDER LAWS

By: Susan Price, Principal Legislative Analyst

You asked for brief summaries of Connecticut's persistent offender laws.

SUMMARY

Persistent offender laws are generally intended to combat recidivism by enhancing penalties for defendants who demonstrate a pattern of resistance to rehabilitation. Connecticut law authorizes judges to impose enhanced sentences on eight classes of repeat (persistent) offenders:

1. dangerous felony offenders,

2. dangerous sexual offenders,

3. serious felony offenders,

4. serious sexual offenders,

5. felony offenders,

6. bigotry or bias offenders,

7. stalking and harassment-related offenders, and

8. larceny offenders.

The Connecticut Supreme Court has interpreted the laws as requiring a sequence of offense, conviction, and punishment for each prior offense before a defendant may be subjected to an enhanced penalty as a persistent offender (State v. Ledbetter, 240 Conn. 317 (1997)). Under this rule, the prior convictions must have been for separate, independent offenses which were disposed of in separate criminal proceedings.

Prosecutors decide whether to charge a repeat offender under a persistent offender statute. If they do so, they must file a two part information, specifying the persistent offender charge and its factual basis in the second part (Part B). A persistent offender charge is not a separate offense, but puts the defendant on notice that a conviction for the underlying charge can subject him or her to enhanced penalties. Defendants who have been pardoned on the grounds of innocence for a prior offense on which the state is relying cannot be convicted as persistent offenders (CGS 53a-40(g)).

Cases involving persistent offender charges are prosecuted in two parts. If the defendant pleads guilty or is convicted of the underlying criminal charge, the second phase requires the court to determine, by clear and convincing evidence, whether the statutory standards for sentence enhancement have been met. The law specifies that defendants may, and in some cases must, be sentenced as persistent offenders when the court determines that the person's history, character, and the nature and circumstances of the criminal conduct indicate that extended incarceration (and, under some statutes, extended community supervision) best serve the public interest. The defendant decides whether a judge or jury makes this determination.

Tables 1-8 show the criminal convictions and sentence enhancements under each of the persistent offender statutes. Table 9 shows Connecticut's statutory crime classifications and sentencing ranges; Table 10 shows the six larceny classifications.

PERSISTENT DANGEROUS FELONY OFFENDER

A “persistent dangerous felony offender” is an individual awaiting sentencing for a violent felony who has previously been sentenced to more than one year in prison for the same or other specified violent crimes (CGS 53a-40(a)(1) and -40(a)(2)). For the second, separate conviction, the law requires the court to impose a prison sentence of up to 40 years rather than the term statutorily specified for the underlying crime. It must impose a sentence of up to life imprisonment (statutorily defined as 60 years) for a third conviction (CGS 53a-40(h)).

Table 1 lists the crimes and sentence enhancements under the persistent dangerous felony offender law.

PERSISTENT DANGEROUS SEXUAL OFFENDER

A “persistent dangerous sexual offender” is a person awaiting sentencing for sexual assault in the 1st or 3rd degree, aggravated sexual assault in the 1st degree, or sexual assault in the 3rd degree with a firearm who has previously been sentenced to at least one year in prison for a serious felony, including sex offenses (CGS 53a-40(b)).

The court must impose a sentence of imprisonment and a period of special parole which together constitute a life sentence in lieu of the statutory sentence for the underlying crime (53a-40(i)).

Table 2 lists the crimes and sentence enhancements under the persistent dangerous sexual offender law.

PERSISTENT SERIOUS FELONY OFFENDER

A “persistent serious felony offender” is a person awaiting sentencing for a felony who has previously been convicted of a crime for which he or she was sentenced to at least one year in prison (CGS 53a-40(c)). Connecticut law defines a crime as a felony or misdemeanor (CGS 53a-24(a)). The court may subject the offender to a sentence of imprisonment for the next more serious degree of felony in lieu of the statutory sentence for the underlying crime (CGS 53a-40(j)).

Table 3 lists the crimes and sentence enhancements under the persistent serious felony offender law.

PERSISTENT SERIOUS SEXUAL OFFENDER

A “persistent serious sexual offender” is a person awaiting sentencing for fondling a child or 1st or 2nd degree sexual assault who has previously been sentenced to imprisonment for more than one year for any of those crimes (CGS 53a-40(d)). The court may impose a sentence of imprisonment and a period of special parole which together constitute the maximum sentence for the next more serious degree of felony (53a-40(k)).

Table 4 lists the crimes and sentence enhancements under the persistent serious sexual offender law.

PERSISTENT FELONY OFFENDER

A “persistent felony offender” is a person awaiting sentencing for any A, B, C, or unclassified felony with two separate, prior convictions for A, B, C, or unclassified felonies (CGS 53a-40(f)). The court may impose a sentence of imprisonment for the next more serious degree of felony. The sentence must include a three-year mandatory minimum period of incarceration (CGS 53a-40(m)).

Table 5 lists the crimes and sentence enhancements under the persistent felony offender statute.

PERSISTENT OFFENDERS OF CRIMES INVOLVING BIGOTRY OR BIAS

A “persistent offender of crimes involving bigotry or bias” is a person awaiting sentencing for (1) depriving another of their civil rights based on their religion, national origin, alienage, color, race, sex, blindness, or physical disability; (2) committing the previous offense while wearing a mask or hood; or (4) 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias. The court must impose the sentence for the next most serious felony or misdemeanor, as the case may be. If the crime for which the sentence is to be imposed is a class A misdemeanor, the court must impose the sentence for a class D felony (CGS 53a-40a).

Table 6 lists the crimes and sentencing enhancements under the statute.

PERSISTENT OFFENDERS OF CRIMES INVOLVING ASSAULT, STALKING, TRESPASS, THREATENING, HARASSMENT, OR CRIMINAL VIOLATIONS OF PROTECTIVE OR RESTRAINING ORDERS

A “persistent offender of crimes involving assault, stalking, trespass, threatening, harassment, criminal violation of a protective order or criminal violation of a restraining order” is a person awaiting sentencing for 2nd degree threatening, stalking or harassment; 3rd degree assault; 1st or 2nd degree criminal trespass; or criminal violation of a protective or restraining order. The offender must have been convicted within the past five years or within five years of being released from prison for the prior conviction (whichever is later) for committing:

1. any offense listed above;

2. a capital or class A felony;

3. a class B felony, except 1st degree promoting prostitution and 1st degree larceny;

4. a class C felony, except 2nd degree promoting prostitution and bribing jurors;

5. 2nd or 3rd degree assault or criminal trespass, 3rd degree burglary or robbery, 3rd degree sexual assault, 2nd degree stalking or harassment; or

6. threatening, unlawful restraint, criminal use of a firearm, reckless burning, or violating a protective or restraining order.

The court must impose the sentence for the next most serious felony or misdemeanor, as the case may be. If the crime for which the sentence is to be imposed is a class A misdemeanor, the court must impose the sentence for a class D felony (CGS 53a-40d).

Table 7 lists the crimes and sentencing enhancements under the statute.

PERSISTENT LARCENY OFFENDER

A “persistent larceny offender” is a person awaiting sentencing for 4th, 5th, or 6th degree larceny who has two separate, prior larceny convictions. The court may impose the sentence for a class D felony. (The underlying larceny offenses are all misdemeanors.)

Table 8 lists the crimes and sentencing enhancements under the persistent larceny offender statute.

Table 1: Persistent Dangerous Felony Offender

Current Conviction

Previous Conviction1

(Court imposed sentence must exceed 1 yr.)

Sentence Enhancement

(Mandatory)

CGS 53a-40(a)(1)(A)

● Manslaughter

● Arson

● Kidnapping

● 1st or 2nd deg. robbery

● 1st deg. assault

● Murder

● Manslaughter

● Arson

● Kidnapping

● 1st or 2nd deg. robbery

● 1st deg. assault

● 1st deg. sexual assault, including aggravated sexual assault

● 3rd deg. deg. sexual assault, including with a firearm

● For second separate conviction: imprisonment for up to 40 years

● For third separate conviction: imprisonment for up to life (60 years)

CGS 53a-40(a)(2)(A)

● 1st deg. sexual assault, including aggravated sexual assault

● 3rd deg. sexual assault, including with firearm

● Murder

● Manslaughter

● Arson

● Kidnapping

● 1st or 2nd deg. robbery

● 1st deg. assault

● For second separate conviction: imprisonment for up to 40 years

● For third separate conviction: imprisonment for up to life (60 years)

Table 2: Persistent Dangerous Sexual Offender

Current Conviction

Prior Conviction2

(Court-imposed sentence must exceed 1 yr.)

Sentence Enhancement

(Mandatory)

● 1st deg. sexual assault, including aggravated sexual assault

● 3rd deg. sexual assault, including with firearm

● Any crime listed at left

● Combined prison and special parole terms must equal life sentence (60 years)

Includes criminal attempts and convictions under predecessor statutes or for substantially similar offenses prosecuted elsewhere .

Table 3: Persistent Serious Felony Offender3

Current Conviction

Prior Conviction4

(Court-imposed sentence must exceed 1 yr.)

Sentence Enhancement

(Discretionary)

● Any felony

● Any felony or misdemeanor

● Imprisonment for next most serious deg. of felony

Table 4: Persistent Serious Sexual Offender5

Current Conviction

Prior Conviction

(Court-imposed sentence must exceed 1 yr.) 6

Sentence Enhancement

(Discretionary)

Risk of injury to a minor

1st deg. sexual assault, including

aggravated sexual assault

Spousal rape

2nd deg. sexual assault

3rd deg. sexual assault, including with firearm

Any qualifying offense under the persistent serious felony offender statute

● Combined prison and special parole periods equal maximum sentence for next most serious deg. of felony

Table 5: Persistent Felony Offenders

Current Conviction

Prior Conviction

Sentence Enhancement

(Discretionary)

● Any A, B, C, or unclassified felony

● 2 separate prior convictions for any of the felonies listed at left

● Imprisonment for the next more serious deg. of felony; 3 year mandatory minimum

Table 6: Persistent Offenders Of Crimes Involving Bigotry or Bias

Current Conviction

Prior Conviction

Sentence Enhancement

(Mandatory)

Deprivation of civil rights based on religion, national origin, alienage, color, race, sex, blindness, or physical disability, including while wearing a hood or mask

1st, 2nd, or 3rd deg. intimidation based on bigotry or bias

Same as those listed at left, and including predecessor statutes

● Imprisonment for the next most serious felony or misdemeanor, as the case may be

● Imprisonment for class D felony if offense is class A misdemeanor

Table 7: Persistent Stalking and Related Offenses

Current Conviction

Prior Conviction

(committed within 5 yrs. or within 5 yrs. of release, whichever is later)

Sentence Enhancement

(Mandatory)

1st or 2nd deg. criminal trespass

2nd deg. threatening, stalking, or harassment

3rd deg. assault

Criminal violation of protective or restraining order

Any offense listed at left

Any capital or class A felony

Class B felonies except 1st deg. (a) promoting prostitution and (b) larceny

Class C felonies except 2nd deg. promoting prostitution or jury bribes

2nd deg. assault, including with a firearm or of victim who is elderly, blind, disabled, mentally retarded, or pregnant

3rd deg. sex assault, including with a firearm

1st deg. unlawful restraint

3rd deg. burglary, including with a firearm

3rd deg. robbery

Reckless burning

Criminal use of firearm or electronic defense weapon

● Imprisonment for the next most serious felony or misdemeanor, as the case may be

● Imprisonment for class D felony if offense is class A misdemeanor

Table 8: Persistent Larceny Offenders

Current Conviction

Prior Conviction

Sentence Enhancement

(Discretionary)

● 4th, 5th, or 6th deg. larceny

● 2 separate prior larceny convictions, including under predecessor statutes

● Class D felony

BACKGROUND

Crimes

The law authorizes courts to impose fines, imprisonment, or both when sentencing a convicted criminal. They must specify the period of incarceration for anyone so sentenced. The prison terms below represent the range within which a judge must set the sentence. Some crimes have a mandatory minimum sentence or a minimum sentence higher than the minimum term specified in the table.

Repeated offenses may result in a higher maximum than specified here.

Table 9: Crime Classifications and Sentencing Ranges

Classification of Crime

Prison Sentence Range

Capital felony

Execution or life (60 years)

Class A felony (murder)

25 to 60 years

Class A felony

10 to 25 years

Class B felony

1 to 20 years

Class C felony

1 to 10 years

Class D felony

1 to 5 years

Class A misdemeanor

up to 1 year

Class B misdemeanor

up to 6 months

Class C misdemeanor

up to 3 months

Larceny

There are six different classifications of larceny, generally depending on the value of the property illegally obtained.

Table 10: Larceny Offenses

Deg.

Value of Property

Classification of Crime

First

Over $10,000

Class B felony

Second

Over $5,000

Class C felony

Third

Over $1,000

Class D felony

Fourth

Over $500

Class A misdemeanor

Fifth

Over $250

Class B misdemeanor

Sixth

Up to $250

Class C misdemeanor

SP:ro

1 Includes criminal attempts and convictions under predecessor statutes or for substantially similar offenses prosecuted elsewhere.

2 Includes criminal attempts and convictions under predecessor statutes or for substantially similar offenses prosecuted elsewhere

3 Excludes situations in which the present conviction is for a crime covered under the persistent dangerous felony offender provision (CGS 53a-40(a)(1)) but the prior conviction was not

4 Includes criminal attempts and convictions under predecessor statutes or for substantially similar offenses prosecuted elsewhere

5 Excludes defendants who qualify as persistent dangerous sexual offenders

6 Includes convictions under predecessor statutes