Understanding Connecticut’s Hate Crime Law
Allegations 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.
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.
Be advised that intent is a critical point that must be proven in order to convict you of a hate crime. It can be difficult to prove that you lacked the intent to attack someone on the basis of their immutable characteristics - after all, proving a negative is impossible. Luckily, you and your attorney need only to establish reasonable doubt; if there is doubt about your intent, you can only be convicted of the underlying crime of assault or harassment. These offenses carry serious penalties, in particular, assault, which can carry between 1 and 20 years in jail depending on the degree.
A good attorney knows that context matters, especially in the context of verbal intimidation or harassment. Sometimes, people revert to their baser selves while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; other times, offensive words are uttered in the heat of the moment. Since intent is such a linchpin of the offense, it is important that you enlist an attorney who knows how to ensure you get a chance to explain your true mindset.
Call a Stamford Hate Crimes Attorney
Being charged with a hate crime is a terrifying experience, especially when you know what is in your own heart and would never stoop to such a degree. If you find yourself in need, contacting a skilled Stamford defense attorney should be your first step. The Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner has handled many of these cases and will work hard to ensure that you get your fair day in court. Call our office today at 203-348-5846 for a free consultation.