PA 17-111—sHB 5743

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING HATE CRIMES

SUMMARY: This act makes several changes to the state's hate crime laws, including enhancing penalties in some cases. Among other things, the act:

1. modifies the elements of certain hate crimes that deprive someone of his or her rights ( 1);

2. 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) (see Table on Penalties);

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

4. enhances the penalty for desecrating a house of religious worship ( 1);

5. 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);

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

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

8. 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 & 9).

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017

1 — DEPRIVATION OF RIGHTS AND DESECRATION OF PROPERTY

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

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.

Under prior law, this crime included placing a burning cross or simulation of one on public property, or on private property without the owner's written consent. The act makes this a crime only if the person acted with the intent to intimidate or harass someone or a group of people.

Under existing law, this crime also included placing a noose or simulation of one on public property, or on private property without the owner's written consent, 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 act adds “gender identity or expression” and “mental disability” to the list of protected classes.

By law, unchanged by the act, this crime additionally includes intentionally desecrating any public property, monument, or structure; religious object, symbol, or house of worship; cemetery; or private structure owned by someone else.

Enhanced Penalties

Under prior law, the crimes described above were generally class A misdemeanors, but they were class D felonies if the property damage exceeded $1,000. The act enhances this penalty by imposing a minimum fine of $1,000 whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony.

The act further enhances the penalty for intentional desecration of a house of religious worship, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Intentional Desecration of a House of Religious Worship

Property Damage

Resulting from the Crime

Classification

Minimum Fine

under the Act

$10,000 or less

Class D felony

(up to five years in prison,

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

$1,000

More than $10,000

Class C felony

(one to 10 years in prison,

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

$3,000

The act prohibits the court from canceling or reducing the minimum fines unless the court states on the record its reasons for doing so. The act also specifically 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) intimidation based on bigotry or bias, (2) deprivation of rights or property (including through cross burning or placing a noose on property), or (3) deprivation of a person's civil rights by a person wearing a mask or hood.

Under prior law, the court could require such an offender to participate in an anti-bias crime education program. The act 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 the 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 act increases, from a class D felony to a class C felony, the penalty for such 1st degree threatening 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 operating hours or when the buildings or grounds are being used (1) to provide religious or community services or (2) for activities sponsored by the house of worship, community center, or day care.

Under the act, a “religiously-affiliated community center” is real property that is (1) used for providing recreational, social, or educational services and (2) owned or leased by a nonprofit organization that holds the property out as being affiliated with an organized religion.

By law, unchanged by the act, 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 higher education institution.

2nd Degree Threatening

By law, 2nd degree threatening consists of (1) intentionally causing, or attempting to cause, someone to fear imminent serious physical injury by physical threat or (2) threatening to commit a violent crime with intent to terrorize someone or in reckless disregard of the risk of doing so.

The act increases, from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony, the penalty for this crime 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 operating hours or when the buildings or grounds are being used (1) to provide religious or community services or (2) for activities sponsored by the house of worship, community center, or day care center.

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

Under existing law, the crimes of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias address certain actions that intimidate or harass another person because of his or her actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. The act adds “sex” to the list of protected classes. It also (1) expands the conduct covered by the 1st and 2nd degree crimes and (2) increases certain penalties for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree crimes.

1st Degree Intimidation

Under prior law, a person committed 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 any of the attributes listed above, whether actual or perceived, caused serious physical injury to that person or a third person. The act expands the conduct covered by the 1st degree crime to include intimidation that causes non-serious, instead of just serious, physical injury.

2nd Degree Intimidation

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

The act adds to this definition the intimidation or harassment of a group of people, instead of just an individual.

Increased Penalties

The act enhances the penalty for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias by imposing a minimum fine depending on the degree of the crime, as shown in Table 2. It also increases, from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony, the penalty for the 3rd degree crime.

Table 2: Intimidation Based on Bigotry or Bias

Crime

Classification

under Prior Law

Classification

under the Act

Minimum Fine

under the Act*

1st degree

Class C felony

(one to 10 years in prison,

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

Unchanged

$3,000

2nd degree

Class D felony

(up to five years in prison,

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

Unchanged

$1,000

3rd degree

Class A misdemeanor

(up to one year in prison,

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

Class E felony

(up to three years in prison, a fine of 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 & 9 — STATE-WIDE HATE CRIMES ADVISORY COUNCIL

The act eliminates the Hate Crimes Advisory Committee and replaces it with a new State-Wide Hate Crimes Advisory Council. It puts the council within the Office of the Chief State's Attorney for administrative purposes only.

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 had a similar charge.)

Members and Appointments

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

1. the chief state's attorney and chief public defender;

2. the emergency services and public protection commissioner;

3. 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; and

4. the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association president.

Additionally, the governor must appoint 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 act). He must also appoint two council members as chairpersons.

Recommendations and Reporting

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

1. restitution for victims of such crimes;

2. community service designed to remedy damage caused by, or related to the commission of such crimes; 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 by October 1, 2018.