OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 213

AN ACT CONCERNING THE INHERITANCE RIGHTS OF A BENEFICIARY OR SURVIVOR WHO IS FOUND NOT GUILTY OF MURDER OR MANSLAUGHTER BY REASON OF MENTAL DISEASE OR DEFECT.

SUMMARY:

Existing law prohibits defendants found guilty of certain crimes from (1) inheriting or receiving part of the victim's estate or (2) receiving life insurance or annuity benefits from the victim. This bill extends these prohibitions to defendants found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. It also adds two crimes to those covered by the prohibitions: 2nd degree manslaughter and 2nd degree manslaughter with a firearm (see BACKGROUND).

Under existing law, the other covered crimes are murder, murder with special circumstances, felony murder, arson murder, 1st degree manslaughter with or without a firearm, 1st or 2nd degree larceny, and 1st degree abuse of an elderly, blind, or disabled person or person with intellectual disabilities.

Existing law allows someone convicted of 1st or 2nd degree larceny or 1st degree abuse to petition the court to override the prohibitions. The bill extends this authorization to defendants found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. By law and under the bill, the court may grant the request if doing so would (1) fulfill the deceased victim's intent or (2) avoid a grossly inequitable outcome under the circumstances.

The bill also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016

PROHIBITIONS ON RECOVERING FROM VICTIM

The provisions described below apply to the currently covered crimes as well as those added by the bill (2nd degree manslaughter and 2nd degree manslaughter with a firearm).

Inheritance or Other Recovery from Estate

As under existing law for those found guilty of a covered crime, the bill's prohibition on inheriting or receiving part of the victim's estate applies to defendants found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in Connecticut or another jurisdiction of a crime with substantially similar elements to those listed.

As under existing law for those found guilty, if the defendant has died, the prohibition also applies, upon an action brought by an interested third party, if the court determines the defendant would have been found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect had he or she survived criminal prosecution.

Under existing law and the bill, these provisions apply whether the person was charged as the principal or accessory to the crime.

The bill also applies to the newly covered crimes and defendants the rules under existing law for property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship. For example, for real property, the finding of guilty or not guilty by mental disease or defect severs a joint tenancy and converts the tenancy into a tenancy in common as between the deceased victim and the defendant, thus preventing full ownership of the property from passing to the defendant.

Life Insurance or Annuity Benefits

The law's prohibition on recovering from a life insurance policy or annuity applies to someone who (1) intentionally caused the death of the person who is the subject of the policy or annuity or (2) was found guilty of 1st or 2nd degree larceny or 1st degree abuse. People convicted of any covered crime are conclusively included within this prohibition, as are people who a court determines, upon an action brought by an interested third party, would have been found guilty had they survived criminal prosecution.

Under the bill, a defendant is also conclusively included within this prohibition if (1) found not guilty of a covered crime by reason of mental disease or defect or (2) the defendant has died and a court determines he or she would have been found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect had he or she survived.

BACKGROUND

Second-Degree Manslaughter With or Without a Firearm

By law, a person commits 2nd degree manslaughter when he or she (1) recklessly causes someone else's death or (2) intentionally causes or helps someone to commit suicide, other than by force, duress, or deception (CGS 53a-56).

By law, a person commits 2nd degree manslaughter with a firearm when he or she (1) commits 2nd degree manslaughter and (2) in the commission of the offense uses, is armed with and threatens to use, or displays or represents by words or conduct that he or she possesses a firearm (CGS 53a-56a).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

42

Nay

0

(03/11/2016)