Connecticut has several laws that protect family and household members from domestic violence. Family and household members are defined as any of the following: spouses or former spouses, parents or their children, persons related by blood or marriage, persons not related by blood or marriage who currently or previously lived in the same household, persons who have a child together, and persons who are or were previously dating.
Overview of Domestic Violence Laws
In Connecticut, there are many crimes that constitute family or domestic violence. Under the Connecticut Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Act, if any of these crimes are committed, the abuser's court record will include a designation noting that the conviction involved family violence.
Generally speaking, the cycle of domestic violence first begins with threats from the abuser. A threat is a statement which is intended to terrorize the victim or cause the victim fear of physical injury. There are two degrees or levels of threats in Connecticut for penalty purposes. The first degree covers threats regarding the use of a hazardous substance or firearm intended to terrorize the victim. The second degree includes all other threats intended to terrorize the victim or cause fear of imminent and serious physical injury.
First-degree threatening: threatening to commit a crime involving the use of a hazardous substance with the intent of terrorizing another person or second degree threatening with the use of, while armed with, or threatening the use of a firearm
Second-degree threatening: threatening with the intent of placing or attempting to place another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury or threatening a violent crime with the intent to terrorize or with reckless disregard of causing terror
After threats, the abuser may escalate the violence by physically assaulting the victim. Assault in Connecticut is divided into three different degrees for penalty purposes. The first degree or highest level is when death or serious physical injury occurs from particularly violent acts, such as from the use of a firearm or dismemberment. The second degree or middle level is when physical injury occurs from other means such as an unconsented drugging. The third degree is when physical injury occurs from intentional or reckless acts which are less egregious than those under second degree assault.
First-degree assault: intentionally causing serious physical injury with a deadly weapon, dangerous instrument, or firearm, intentionally causing serious and permanent disfigurement of another person, intentionally causing amputation or permanent disability of another person's bodily organ(s) or member(s), or recklessly engaging in conduct which shows extreme indifference to human life, creates a risk of death, and utimately causes serious physical injury
Assault of a pregnant woman resulting in termination of pregnancy: first degree assault of a pregnant victim causing termination of her pregnancy
Second degree assault: intentionally causing serious physical injury to another person, recklessly causing serious physical injury of another person by use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, intentionally causing a person to become partially or wholly unconscious, physically impaired, or injured by drugging them or using some other similar means without consent
Third degree assault: intentionally or recklessly causing physical injury to another person or causing physical injury with criminal negligence and use of a deadly weapon, dangerous instrument, or electronic defense weapon (such as a "stun" gun)
Aside from threatening and assault, abusers can also be charged with various degrees of sexual assault and a myriad of other crimes. The following definitions cover only the most basic versions of some of these additional crimes. The elements of the crime and penalties may differ depending upon the degree of the crime.
Harassment: addressing a person and/or using indecent or obscene language over the phone or harassing, annoying or alarming another person via a written communication or a telephone call
Stalking: willfully and repeatedly lying in wait for another person and recklessly causing that person to fear for his or her physical safety
Strangulation: restricting blood circulation or the victim's ability to breathe by recklessly restraining the victim by the neck or throat
Reckless endangerment: recklessly engaging in conduct which creates a risk of serious physical injury to another person
The penalties for the above crimes depend upon the degree of the crime. First degree assault is a Class B felony. First degree assault of a pregnant woman causing termination of her pregnancy is a Class A felony. First degree threatening and second degree assault are Class D felonies. Second degree threatening and third degree assault are Class A misdemeanors.
Sentences range in Connecticut depending upon a number of factors, but the maximum penalties for each of the following classes of felonies and misdemeanors are:
Class A felony: up to 25 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines
Class B felony: up to 20 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines
Class C felony: up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines
Class D felony: up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines
Class A misdemeanor: up to 1 year in prison and up to $2,000 in fines
Class B misdemeanor: up to 6 months in prison and up to $1,000 in fines
Victims may file an application for a civil restraining order which protects them from further abuse and prohibits the abuser from contacting them or they may request a family violence protective order if there is a criminal proceeding. A civil restraining order is generally good for about 6 months but may be extended by the court upon request. A family violence protective order usually only lasts until the end of a criminal proceeding but a Standing Criminal Restraining Order may be issued by the court at the end of the criminal case. A Standing Criminal Restraining Order remains in effect for the victim's lifetime absent further action by the court.
If a restraining or protective order is violated by the abuser, it is a Class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
Getting Legal Help
If you're facing a criminal charge, you can contact a Connecticut criminal defense attorney for help. There are also public defenders who can help those facing criminal charges as well as various non-profit agencies which can assist victims for no fee or a reduced fee.
Contact a qualified attorney.