Connecticut Legislature Passes New Hate Crime Law
Last 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.
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.
The existing law also provides for three degrees of hate crimes based on the severity of the incident as well whether a serious physical injury was inflicted. First and second degree hate crimes are considered felonies, while third degree offenses, which usually involve property destruction, are treated as Class A misdemeanors. Furthermore, the level of direct economic impact caused by the property damage does not matter in determining whether a person will be prosecuted for this type of act. This means that regardless of whether the damage resulted in $1 of repairs or $1,000, defendants can still be prosecuted. Under the new law, all hate crimes would be considered felonies and the threshold of a first degree hate crime would also be lowered to include those offenses that result in a mere “physical injury.”
Under current law, hate crimes are often charged as misdemeanor offenses. If Governor Malloy signs the new bill, however, someone arrested for a hate crime would automatically face felony charges. Furthermore, the state’s law currently protects gender identity and expression, but not gender itself. The new law would include gender as a protected category.
The bill also increases the penalty for making a threat of violence against a religious institution, house of worship, or religious community center. The new law would make this offense a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. However, if more than $10,000 in damage was inflicted, the charge will be increased to a Class C felony, which could mean up to ten years in prison. The bill also allows courts to order defendants to serve extensive community service and pay restitution in addition to jail time and a mandatory minimum $1,000 fine.
Contact an Experienced Stamford Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a hate crime or another property-related offense, please contact the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner to speak with a dedicated Stamford criminal defense attorney who can explain your legal options. You can also reach us by initiating a live chat with a member of our legal team or by sending us a brief online message with a description of your case.