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b2ap3_thumbnail_hate-crime_20210504-195208_1.jpgWhen someone breaks the law, they can be charged with a criminal offense and sentenced to various criminal penalties. However, not all crimes are treated equally under Connecticut or federal law. Some crimes are considered “hate crimes.” Understanding exactly what crimes are considered hate crimes is not always easy. The law is often difficult to interpret, and the issue is shrouded in controversy. However, one matter remains clear: If you are charged with a crime, speaking with a criminal defense attorney is the best way to ensure that you receive the legal advice and support you need.  

What is a Hate Crime?

Certain individuals are specifically protected by the law. When a crime targets a protected class of people, this crime may be considered a hate crime. In Connecticut, it is against the law to threaten, harm, or harass someone on the basis of his or her ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. An individual who is charged with a hate crime may face criminal penalties and monetary damages in a civil lawsuit.

Categories of Hate Crimes in Connecticut

Per Connecticut law, a person commits first-degree “intimidation based on bigotry or bias” if the person deliberately injures another individual because of that individual’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, or disability. This crime is punishable by up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Second-degree intimidation involves destroying property, threatening, or making physical contact with someone in order to intimidate or harass him or her. This Class D felony is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000. Third-degree intimidation involves damaging or destroying property or threatening or encouraging someone to damage property on the basis of the aforementioned attributes. This is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and up to 2,000 in fines.

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CT defense lawyerWe live in a volatile age at this point in time, with beliefs that might once have been restricted to private circles finding a place in the open, right in the middle of our national discourse. While free speech should be protected, there must also be limits on what others can say and do without repercussions, and this rationale is what gives rise to hate crime laws. Connecticut’s is fairly specific and strict, aiming to protect marginalized people from crimes based solely on their innate characteristics. If you worry that you have committed a hate crime, you may face some serious penalties based on one bad decision.

“Actual Or Perceived” Characteristics Protected

Every state’s hate crime laws list characteristics protected from harassment or intimidation under its aegis. Connecticut’s primary hate crime law prohibits causing physical injury based on an intent to discriminate or harass based on “actual or perceived” race, religion, disability, sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation. In other words, if you have been the aggressor in an attack on someone, and it was based on one of the listed characteristics, you may have committed a hate crime.

It is also worth noting that your victim does not necessarily have to be a member of any of the listed marginalized communities for you to have committed a hate crime - for example, if you attack or harm someone based on homophobia, it does not matter whether the victim is actually a part of the LGBTQ+ community or not. The prosecution will argue that your intent was still malicious and motivated by a protected characteristic, so they can still be charged.

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CT defense lawyerAllegations of bias or bigotry are very serious and becoming increasingly not tolerated in this day and age. Many states, including Connecticut, have instituted significant penalties that can be added onto a sentence if it can be proven that the underlying crime was committed with intent to harm or threaten a member of a minority group. If you find yourself charged with a hate crime on top of another charge, it is a very serious charge that cannot be ignored.

Two Crimes

To charge someone with a hate crime in Connecticut, it must be alleged that they either committed assault, vandalism (or another property crime), or harassment, for the express purpose of targeting a person based on their immutable characteristics. There are three degrees of “intimidation based on bigotry or bias,” as hate crimes are officially known in Connecticut, and in order for someone to be found guilty of any of them, the prosecution must show both that the underlying crime and the bigotry or bias are present.

So, for example, if you are charged with assault after attacking someone, and there is reason to believe that you did so based on their race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, the prosecution would have to prove both that you actually did commit the crime of assault, and that you did so against that particular person because of one or more of those characteristics. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you had the intent to attack that particular person out of hate or malice, you cannot be convicted of a hate crime.

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Posted on in Hate Crimes

Connecticut defense lawyerIn Connecticut as in other states and the nation at large, words or actions that might otherwise constitute a misdemeanor crime rise to the level of a serious felony offense when motivated by bigotry or bias against another person or group’s race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. When such a combination of actions, motivations, and parties are present, the words or acts at issue may be prosecuted as a hate crime. As a serious felony offense, a hate crime is punishable by a lengthy prison sentence and fine of several thousand dollars. If you have been charged with a hate crime in Connecticut, your reputation, personal freedom, and financial standing demand that you counter the charges with effective legal representation.

Intimidation is at the Core of Hate Crimes in Connecticut

The reason Connecticut punishes hate crimes so severely is to deter individuals from harassing perceived members of groups that have been historically disfavored in American society. Through deterrence, vulnerable classes are afforded protection. Specifically, protected status applies to:

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Connecticut defense attorney, Connecticut criminal lawyerLast month, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill that makes the state’s hate crime law one of the strongest in the nation. Under the new law, defendants who are convicted of committing a hate crime face up to ten years in prison, $10,000 fine, and extensive community service, so if you or a loved one were recently arrested for a hate crime, it is critical to speak with an experienced Stamford criminal defense attorney who can help you formulate a defense.

Current Law

Under current law, it is a crime to carry out or threaten to carry out any act that is committed with malice and the intent to intimidate or harass a group of people because of their race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

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