PA 17-31—sHB 7299

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING STRENGTHENING LAWS CONCERNING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

SUMMARY: This act makes various changes in certain laws concerning crimes against an individual. Specifically, it:

1. expands the conduct that constitutes stalking to include conduct that causes a reasonable person to suffer “emotional distress,”

2. specifies that 1st or 2nd degree stalking may occur through the use of electronic or social media,

3. broadens the strangulation statutes to include suffocation that occurs when a person obstructs another person's nose or mouth,

4. increases the penalty for violating the conditions of release when the violation involves certain conduct, and

5. requires a presentence investigation for anyone convicted of a family violence felony for which a prison sentence may be imposed and prohibits such a defendant from waiving the investigation.

It also makes conforming and technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017

STALKING

3rd Degree Stalking ( 2)

Under existing law, a person is guilty of 3rd degree stalking when he or she recklessly causes another person to reasonably fear for his or her physical safety by willfully and repeatedly following or lying in wait for the other person. The act expands the conduct that constitutes 3rd degree stalking to include any such conduct that would cause another person to reasonably suffer emotional distress. Third degree stalking is a class B misdemeanor (see Table on Penalties).

Under the act, “emotional distress” means significant mental or psychological suffering or distress that may require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.

2nd Degree Stalking ( 1)

The act expands the conduct that constitutes 2nd degree stalking to include knowingly engaging in a course of conduct that is directed at a specific person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.

Under existing law, a person also commits 2nd degree stalking, a class A misdemeanor, by (1) knowingly engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his, her, or a third person's physical safety or (2) intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear that his or her employment, business, or career is threatened.

1st Degree Stalking

By law, a person is guilty of 1st degree stalking, a class D felony, when, among other things, after a conviction for 2nd degree stalking, he or she again commits 2nd degree stalking (CGS 53a-181c). Because the act expands the conduct that constitutes 2nd degree stalking (see above), it correspondingly expands the conduct that constitutes the 1st degree crime.

STRANGULATION OR SUFFOCATION

3rd Degree Strangulation or Suffocation ( 5)

A person commits 3rd degree strangulation, a class A misdemeanor, if he or she recklessly restrains another person by the throat or neck and impedes the victim's breathing or blood circulation. The act adds suffocation to this crime and expands the conduct that constitutes the crime to include impeding another person's breathing or blood circulation by recklessly obstructing his or her nose or mouth.

2nd Degree Strangulation or Suffocation ( 4)

A person is guilty of 2nd degree strangulation, a class D felony, when he or she intentionally and actually impedes another person's breathing or blood circulation by restraining the victim by the throat or neck. The act adds suffocation to this crime and expands the conduct that constitutes it to include intentionally and actually impeding another person's breathing or blood circulation by obstructing his or her nose or mouth.

1st Degree Strangulation or Suffocation ( 3)

The act adds suffocation to the 1st degree strangulation crime. By law, a person commits the 1st degree crime if he or she commits the 2nd degree crime and (1) has previously been convicted of the 1st or 2nd degree crime or (2) either causes serious physical injury or uses or attempts to use a dangerous instrument in committing the crime.

Because the act expands the conduct that constitutes the 2nd degree crime (see above), it correspondingly expands the conduct that constitutes the 1st degree crime. First degree strangulation is a class C felony.

Unlawful Restraint and Assault ( 5)

Under the act, as is the case under existing law for strangulation, no one may be found guilty of 1st degree suffocation and assault or 1st or 2nd degree unlawful restraint for the same incident. However, the person may be charged with all three crimes in the same information (charging document). By law, “assault” means, among other things, (1) 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree assault; (2) 2nd degree assault with a firearm; or (3) assault of a pregnant woman.

VIOLATING THE CONDITIONS OF RELEASE ( 6 & 7)

The act increases the penalty for 1st and 2nd degree violation of release conditions if the violation involves (1) restraining another person or the person's liberty or (2) threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting, sexually assaulting, or attacking the other person. Under the act, a violation that involves this conduct increases the penalty from:

1. a class D felony to a class C felony for the 1st degree crime and

2. a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony for the 2nd degree crime.

By law, unchanged by the act, it is a 1st degree violation of release conditions for a person (1) charged with a felony and (2) released on nonfinancial conditions set by a bail commissioner, court, or police officer in family violence cases, to intentionally violate one or more of the conditions. It is a 2nd degree violation for a person (1) charged with a misdemeanor or motor vehicle violation punishable by imprisonment and (2) released on nonfinancial conditions set by a bail commissioner, court, or police officer in family violence cases, to intentionally violate one or more of the conditions.

PRESENTENCE INVESTIGATION ( 8)

Except for murder with special circumstances, existing law requires a probation officer to conduct a presentence investigation for anyone convicted of a felony for the first time in Connecticut. A presentence report includes information on the circumstances of the offense; the victim's attitude; and the defendant's criminal record, social history, and present condition.

The act (1) requires a presentence investigation for anyone convicted of a family violence felony for which a prison sentence may be imposed and (2) prohibits the defendant from waiving it.

By law, a “family violence crime” is a crime that, in addition to its other elements, contains an element of family violence (i.e., an incident between family or household members that either causes physical injury or creates fear that physical injury is about to occur, but generally does not include verbal abuse or arguments).