April 15, 2008
CONNECTICUT HATE CRIMES LAWS
By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney
You asked for a summary of Connecticut's hate crimes laws.
Connecticut has a number of statutes on hate crimes that protect a range of people, enhance penalties for bias crimes, and allow an injured person to sue for money damages. The primary criminal statutes are the intimidation based on bigotry or bias crimes. These statutes provide three degrees of penalties. They address certain actions that intimidate or harass another person because of his actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.
Other provisions on hate crimes; education programs as conditions of accelerated rehabilitation, probation, and conditional discharge; police training; and an advisory committee are described below.
BIGOTRY OR BIAS CRIMES
A person commits the first degree crime of intimidation based on bigotry or bias if he maliciously and with intent to intimidate or harass another person because of his actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression causes serious physical injury to that person or a third person. This is a class C felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both (CGS § 53a-181j).
“Gender identity or expression” is defined as a person's gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not it is different from what is traditionally associated with the person's assigned sex at birth.
“Disability” is defined as:
1. a mental disability—one or more mental disorders as defined in the American Psychiatric Association's “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders;”
2. a physical disability—a chronic physical handicap, infirmity, or impairment, whether congenital or from bodily injury, organic process or change, or illness, including blindness, epilepsy, deafness, hearing impairment, or reliance on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device; or
3. mental retardation—significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period.
A person commits the second degree crime if he acts maliciously and intends to intimidate or harass someone because of his actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression by:
1. making physical contact with the victim;
2. damaging, destroying, or defacing property; or
3. threatening to do either of these things and the victim has reasonable cause to believe he will carry out the threat.
This is a class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both (CGS § 53a-181k).
A person commits the third degree crime if he intends to intimidate or harass a person or group of people because of their actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression and he (1) damages, destroys, or defaces any property or (2) threatens to do so by word or act or advocates or urges another person to do so and gives the victim reasonable cause to believe the act will occur. This is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $2,000, or both (CGS § 53a-181l).
Record and Classification of Crimes
Town police departments, resident state troopers, and constables who perform law enforcement duties must monitor, record, and classify these crimes. They must report the data to the State Police who must also monitor, record, and classify them (CGS § 29-7m).
Action for Damages
A person injured by conduct that falls under these crimes can sue for damages for his injury. The court must award triple damages if the injured person prevails and may award other relief and reasonable attorney's fees. The injured party must file the lawsuit within three years of the acts complained of (CGS § 52-571c).
DEPRIVATION OF RIGHTS, DESECRATION OF PROPERTY, AND CROSS BURNING
It is a crime to:
1. deprive someone of any legally-guaranteed right because of his religion, national origin, alienage, color, race, sex, sexual orientation, blindness, or physical disability;
2. intentionally desecrate any public property, monument, or structure; religious object, symbol, or house of worship; cemetery; or private structure; or
3. place a burning cross or simulation of one on public or private property without the written consent of the owner.
This is a class A misdemeanor, but it is a class D felony if there is more than $1,000 of property damage (CGS § 46a-58).
DEPRIVATION OF A PERSON'S CIVIL RIGHTS BY PERSON WEARING A MASK OR HOOD
Penalties are increased for the crimes involving depriving someone of his constitutional rights, desecrating property, or burning a cross under certain circumstances if the person (1) commits the crime while wearing a mask, hood, or other device designed to conceal his identity and (2) intends to deprive another person of any legally guaranteed right because of his religion, national origin, alienage, color, race, sex, sexual orientation, blindness, or physical disability. This is a class D felony (CGS § 53-37a).
RIDICULE ON ACCOUNT OF RACE, CREED, OR COLOR
A person commits this crime if he ridicules any person or class of people on account of creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality, or race. Violations are punishable by up to 30 days in prison, a fine of up to $50, or both (CGS § 53-37).
DEPRIVATION OF A PERSON'S EQUAL RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES BY FORCE OR THREAT
A person commits this crime if he uses force or threats with the intent to deprive a person or class of people of the equal protection or privileges and immunities of the laws of this state or the United States. The prohibition applies to individuals acting alone and to those acting in conspiracy with others.
This applies when a person:
1. intentionally places or attempts to place another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury, through physical threat;
2. threatens to commit a violent crime with the intent to terrorize another; or
3. threatens to commit a violent crime in reckless disregard of the risk of causing terror.
This is a class A misdemeanor but it is a class C felony if bodily injury occurs. The crime is a class B felony if death results, punishable by one to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both (CGS § 53-37b).
PERSISTENT OFFENDERS OF CRIMES INVOLVING BIGOTRY OR BIAS
A persistent offender is a person who is convicted of any of the following crimes after having been previously convicted of one of them:
1. intimidation based on bigotry or bias;
2. deprivation of rights, desecration of property, or cross burning; or
3. deprivation of rights by a person wearing a mask or hood.
The court must sentence a persistent offender to the next highest class of sentence (e.g., if he is convicted of a class A misdemeanor he can be sentenced as though he committed a class D felony)(CGS § 53a-40a, as amended by PA 08-1, January Special Session).
OTHER HATE CRIMES PROVISIONS
Accelerated Rehabilitation and Hate Crimes Diversion Program
A court can require participation in a hate crimes diversion program as a condition of probation under accelerated rehabilitation (AR). This applies to people charged with (1) deprivation of rights, desecration of property, and cross burning; (2) deprivation of a person's civil rights by a person wearing a mask or hood; and (3) intimidation based on bigotry or bias (CGS § 54-56e).
AR is for people accused of nonserious crimes or motor vehicle violations who (1) have no prior convictions or specified motor vehicle violations, (2) have not been adjudged a youthful offender within the last five years, (3) are not eligible for certain other pretrial programs, and (4) the court believes are unlikely to offend again. The program allows them to waive trial and be placed on probation for up to two years, subject to any conditions the court orders. All charges are dismissed on successful completion of probation.
People charged with certain crimes cannot participate in AR and someone charged with a class C felony must show “good cause” to participate.
The hate crimes diversion program includes an educational program and supervised community service. The Office of Adult Probation contracts with service providers, develops standards, and oversees the programs.
Education Program as Condition of Probation or Conditional Discharge
A court, as a condition of probation or conditional discharge, can require an offender to participate in an anti-bias crime education program if he is convicted of (1) bigotry or bias crimes; (2) deprivation of rights, desecration of property, or cross burning; or (3) deprivation of a person's civil rights by a person wearing a mask or hood (CGS § 53a-30(a)(15)).
Hate Crimes Advisory Committee
The law requires the chief state's attorney to establish a Hate Crimes Advisory Committee to (1) coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to enforce bigotry and bias criminal laws and increase community awareness, reporting, and combating of these crimes and (2) make recommendations on training police officers (CGS § 51-279d).
Basic or review training programs conducted or administered by the State Police, Police Officer Standards and Training Council, or municipal police departments must include training on bigotry and bias crimes (CGS § 7-294n).