Efforts are underway in Hartford to bolster the state’s approach to prosecuting hate crimes. A new bill has been proposed and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee that, if enacted, would make Connecticut’s hate crime penalties among the most severe in the country. The bill’s primary sponsor, Senator Martin Looney, D-New Haven, who is also the Democratic President Pro Tempore in the Senate, says that the legislation is a necessary response to recent “incidents of intimidation and threatening based on bigotry and bias.”
Over the last few months, there have been numerous reports of hate crimes throughout the state, including bomb threats called in to Jewish Community Centers and other offenses against African-Americans, Muslims, and transgender individuals. In fact, the Anti-Defamation League, an organization founded to combat anti-Semitism and discrimination, reports that the number of hate crimes has doubled in Connecticut in the last year.
What Is a Hate Crime?
Currently in Connecticut, a hate crime is defined as any act that is committed maliciously and with intent to intimidate or harass a person because of that person’s perceived or actual race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. The existing law provides for three degrees of hate crimes based on the severity the action and whether serious physical injury was caused to the victim. First- and second-degree crimes of bigotry or bias are considered felonies, while a third-degree crime—which includes the destruction or defacement of property and threats to damage property—is currently a Class A misdemeanor.
Under the new law, if it is ultimately passed and signed by the governor, all hate crimes would be considered felonies. It would also set a mandatory minimum fine for hate crime offenders at $1,000. In addition, the law would extend hate crime provisions to include offenses based on the victim’s gender, as the existing law only covers gender identity or expression.
Lawmakers are also pushing for separate legislation to address crimes committed against police officers, firefighters, judges, and other public servants. Some Republicans wanted to include such concerns in the hate crime measure, but their efforts were unsuccessful.
Charged With a Hate Crime?
If you or someone you love is facing charges of intimidation or harassment based on bigotry or bias, you need help. Contact an experienced Hartford criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options today. Call [[phone1]] for a free, confidential consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC and get the responsible guidance you need.