OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5743

AN ACT CONCERNING HATE CRIMES.

SUMMARY

This bill makes several changes to the hate crime laws, including enhancing penalties in some cases. Among other things, the bill:

1. imposes minimum fines for certain hate crimes, including deprivation of rights; desecration of property; cross burning; and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias ( 1 & 5-7);

2. allows the court to cancel or reduce the minimum fines the bill imposes if the court states on the record its reasons for doing so ( 1 & 5-7);

3. enhances the penalty for desecration of a house of religious worship ( 1);

4. increases the penalty for 1st and 2nd degree threatening when the threat affects a house of worship, religiously-affiliated community center, or day care center ( 3 & 4);

5. increases, from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony, the penalty for 3rd degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias ( 5-7);

6. allows the court, as a condition of probation or conditional release, to require hate-crime offenders to participate in certain programs ( 2);

7. replaces the Hate Crimes Advisory Committee with a new State-Wide Hate Crimes Advisory Council within the Office of the Chief State's Attorney ( 8 & 11);

8. requires the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) commissioner to establish a toll-free hotline to receive and respond to text messages and telephone calls from people reporting hate crimes ( 9); and

9. provides employment protection for certain employees who are absent from work up to 16 hours per year due to closure of a day care center or school due to hate crime threat ( 10).

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017

1 — DEPRIVATION OF RIGHTS AND DESECRATION OF PROPERTY

The bill makes various changes to the elements of certain hate crimes that deprive someone of their rights, as well as enhances penalties for deprivation of rights and desecration of property.

Deprivation of Rights

By law, it is a crime to deprive someone of any legally-guaranteed right because of his or her religion, national origin, alienage, color, race, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, blindness, or mental or physical disability. Existing law specifies that placement of a burning cross or a noose on another person's property are two types of this crime.

Under current law it is a crime to place a burning cross or simulation of one on public property, or on private property without the written consent of the owner. The bill makes this a crime only if the person acted with the intent to intimidate someone or a group of people.

It is also a crime under current law to place a noose or simulation of one on public property, or on private property without the written consent of the owner, and with the intent to harass someone because of his or her religion, national origin, alienage, color, race, sex, sexual orientation, blindness, or physical disability. The bill adds “gender identity or expression” and “mental disability” to the list of protected classes.

Desecration of Property

By law, unchanged by the bill, it is also a hate crime to intentionally desecrate any public property, monument, or structure; religious object, symbol, or house of worship; cemetery; or private structure.

Enhanced Penalties

Under current law, the crimes described above are class A misdemeanors, but class D felonies if there is more than $1,000 in property damage. The bill enhances this penalty by imposing a minimum fine of $1,000 whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony.

By law, a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year imprisonment, a fine up to $2,000, or both; a class D felony is punishable by up to five years imprisonment, a fine up to $5,000, or both.

The bill further enhances the penalty for these crimes if the offender intentionally desecrates a house of religious worship (see Table 1 below).

Table 1: Intentional Desecration of a House of Religious Worship

Classification

Property Damage

Resulting from the Crime

Minimum Fine

under the Bill

Class D felony

(up to five years in prison,

a fine up to $5,000, or both)

$10,000 or less

$1,000

Class C felony

(one to 10 years in prison,

a fine up to $10,000, or both)

more than $10,000

$3,000

The bill prohibits the court from canceling or reducing the minimum fines unless the court states on the record its reasons for doing so. The bill also allows the court to order the offender to pay financial restitution to the victim.

2 — CONDITIONS OF PROBATION AND CONDITIONAL DISCHARGE

By law, a court, as a condition of probation or conditional discharge, may require an offender to participate in certain programs if he or she is convicted of (1) a bigotry or bias crime; (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.

Under current law, the court may require such an offender to participate in an anti-bias crime education program. The bill instead allows the court to require the offender to participate in (1) an anti-bias or diversity awareness program or (2) a community service program designed to remedy damage caused by the commission of a bias crime or otherwise related to the defendant's violation.

3 & 4 — THREATENING CRIMES

1st Degree Threatening

By law, 1st degree threatening includes threats to commit a violent crime or a crime using a hazardous substance with intent to cause, or with reckless disregard of the risk of causing, (1) evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or public transportation facility; (2) serious public inconvenience; or (3) for hazardous substance crimes, terror in a person.

The bill increases the penalty for such 1st degree threatening from a class D felony to a class C felony, if the threat was made with intent to cause the evacuation of the building or grounds of a house of religious worship, religiously-affiliated community center, or day care center during operational hours or when such buildings or grounds are being used to provide religious or community services or for house of worship-, community center-, or day care center-sponsored activities.

By law, unchanged by the bill, such 1st degree threatening is already a class C felony if the threat was made with the intent to cause the evacuation of a preschool, school, or institution of higher education.

2nd Degree Threatening

By law, a person is guilty of 2nd degree threatening when he or she (1) intentionally places or attempts to cause someone to fear imminent serious physical injury by physical threat or (2) threatens to commit a violent crime with intent to terrorize someone or in reckless disregard of the risk of doing so.

The bill increases the penalty for this crime from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony if the threatened person was in the building or on the grounds of a house of religious worship, religiously-affiliated community center, or day care center during operational hours or when such buildings or grounds are being used to provide religious or community services or for house of worship-, community center-, or day care center-sponsored activities.

By law, such 2nd degree threatening is already a class D felony if the threatened person was in the building or on the grounds of a preschool, school, or higher education institution.

5-7 — INTIMIDATION BASED ON BIGOTRY OR BIAS

The bill makes the following changes to the crimes of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias (see BACKGROUND):

1. adds “sex” to the list of protected classes;

2. enhances the penalty for these crimes by imposing a minimum fine depending on the degree of the crime, as shown in Table 2;

3. prohibits the court from canceling or reducing the minimum fine unless the court states on the record its reasons for doing so;

4. requires, for the 1st degree crime, that the intimidation causes physical injury, instead of serious physical injury;

5. adds, to the definition of the 2nd degree crime, the intimidation or harassment of a group of people, instead of just an individual; and

6. increases, from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony, the penalty for the 3rd degree crime, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Intimidation Based on Bigotry or Bias

Crime

Classification

under Current Law

Classification

under the Bill

Minimum Fine

under the Bill*

1st degree

Class C felony

(one to 10 years in prison,

a fine up to $10,000, or both)

Unchanged

$3,000

2nd degree

Class D felony

(up to five years in prison,

a fine up to $5,000, or both)

Unchanged

$1,000

3rd degree

Class A misdemeanor

(up to one year in prison,

a fine up to $2,000, or both)

Class E felony

(up to three years in prison, a fine up to $3,500, or both)

$1,000

*Unless the court states on the record its reasons for canceling or reducing the minimum fine.

8 & 11 — STATE-WIDE HATE CRIMES ADVISORY COUNCIL

The bill eliminates the existing Hate Crimes Advisory Committee and replaces it with a new State-Wide Hate Crimes Advisory Council within the Office of the Chief State's Attorney.

The council must meet at least semiannually to encourage and coordinate programs to increase community awareness, reporting, and combating of hate crimes. (The Hate Crimes Advisory Committee has a similar mission.)

Members and Appointments

The council's members include the following individuals, or their designees:

1. the chief state's attorney;

2. the chief public defender;

3. the DESPP commissioner;

4. the Connecticut Bar Association, George W. Crawford Black Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association of Connecticut, Connecticut Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association presidents;

5. the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association president; and

6. up to 30 representatives of organizations committed to decreasing hate crimes, improving diversity awareness, or representing the interests of groups within the state protected by Connecticut's intimidation statutes ( 5-7 of the bill), appointed by the governor.

The governor must also appoint the council's two chairpersons from among its members.

Recommendations and Reporting

The bill requires the council to make recommendations for any legislation concerning hate crimes, such as:

1. restitution for victims of such crimes,

2. community service designed to remedy damage caused by any such crime or related to the commission of any such crime, and

3. additional alternative sentencing programs for first-time offenders and juvenile offenders.

The council must report its recommendations to the Judiciary and Public Safety committees annually starting October 1, 2018.

9 — TOLL-FREE HOTLINE

The bill requires the DESPP commissioner to establish a toll-free hotline to receive and respond to text messages and telephone calls from people reporting hate crimes.

Referral and Resources

The hotline staff must direct the person reporting the crime to the proper law enforcement agency, if appropriate, and locally available support services.

The commissioner must ensure that the hotline is accessible to people with limited English proficiency and persons with disabilities.

Confidentiality

Under the bill, any personally identifiable information that a person provides to hotline staff is confidential and must not be disclosed without the reporting person's consent.

Training

The commissioner must ensure that staff who operate the hotline are trained on federal, state, and municipal hate crime laws; law enforcement resources; and support services applicable to and available locally to address the needs of a person reporting or impacted by any such crime or incident.

Funding

To publicize and operate the hotline, the commissioner must use fines collected from offenders who commit hate crimes involving deprivation of rights, desecration of property, cross burning, bigotry, or bias.

10 — EMPLOYMENT PROTECTION FOR WITNESSES AND CRIME VICTIMS

The bill prohibits an employer from depriving, penalizing, threatening, or coercing an employee with respect to employment if the:

1. employee is absent up to 16 hours in any calendar year as a result of the closure or evacuation of the employee's child's day care or school and

2. closure or evacuation was due to a threat of violence against the day care's or school's building, premises, staff, children, or students.

Existing law prohibits an employer from doing so for other reasons, including situations where the employee (1) obeys a subpoena as a witness in a criminal proceeding, (2) is a family violence victim, or (3) has a restraining or protective order issued on his or her behalf.

BACKGROUND

1st Degree Intimidation

Under existing law, a person commits the 1st degree crime of intimidation based on bigotry or bias if he or she maliciously and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person's 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.

2nd Degree Intimidation

Under existing law, a person commits the 2nd degree crime if he or she acts maliciously with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person's 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.

3rd Degree Intimidation

Under existing law, a person commits the 3rd degree crime if he or she, with specific intent 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 (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.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

38

Nay

1

(04/03/2017)