By Guy Page
The Vermont House of Representatives yesterday, March 17 reclassified felonies and misdemeanors, banned police use of chokeholds except to prevent death or bodily injury, and removed the motivation of malice from punishable hate crimes.
Actions taken on the floor of the House yesterday, as published in the 3/17/2021 House Journal, include the following:
H. 87, reclassification of criminal offenses, received preliminary approval. A vote for final approval is scheduled for today. Under H87, all felonies punishable by a maximum term of:
(A) life imprisonment for Class A felonies.
(B) 20 years or more but less than life for Class B felonies.
(C) 10 years or more but less than 20 years for Class C felonies.
(D) five years or more but less than ten years for Class D felonies, including all property crimes of $100,000 or more.
(E) less than five years for Class E felonies, including property crimes of $3000 – $100,000.
The bill also reclassifies fines and misdemeanors.
Bills receiving preliminary approval and scheduled for final approval include:
H. 428, another Judiciary Committee bill, removes the motive of malice for hate crimes.
Current state law adds extra penalties for “a person who commits, causes to be committed, or attempts to commit any crime and whose conduct is maliciously motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, service in the U.S. Armed Forces, disability….. sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
H428 removes “maliciously” (and also adds “The National Guard” as a protected group).
The Vermont Attorney General defines the most common hate crimes in Vermont:
- Assaults (hitting, pushing, spitting, threats of immediate violence)
- Unlawful mischief – damage or destruction of property
- Telephone harassment (including repeated hang-ups)
- Disorderly Conduct (by loud or public threats and abuse
Judiciary took testimony on H428 on March 10. Neither of the witnesses – the ACLU-VT and a disability rights organization – addressed the ‘maliciously’ question. Vermont Daily has emailed members of Judiciary for an explanation on how a hate crime could be other than malicious. Meanwhile, a Virginia law firm offers a distinction between malicious and non-malicious unlawful attacks:
The difference between the two crimes is subtle, yet great, and lies within the definition of the word “malicious.” Malice can be thought of as an unjust or evil act without cause or excuse. For example, malicious wounding, such as biting another person’s face out of hatred, is intended to injure, kill, or maim, with the added factor of malice. While a person who causes unlawful wounding still intends to cause injury, death, or maiming to their victim, the addition of malice is not present in their act.
H. 145, Judiciary Committee bill, amending the standards for law enforcement use of force, including banning chokehold except to prevent death or serious bodily injury.
H. 154, Committee on Government Operations, failure of municipal officers to accept office.
H. 218, Suprenant (Barnard), expanding sale of unpasteurized raw milk.
Bills receiving final approval and sent to the Senate:
H. 10, Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford), allowing candidates to claim childcare and other living expenses as campaign expenditure.
H. 46, Donahue (R-Northfield), mental health law, including voluntary admission for treatment.
H. 104, Durfee (D-Bennington), allowing out-of-state mental health professionals to treat patients using telemedicine.
H. 149, Fagan (R-Rutland), modernizing statutes related to the Vermont National Guard.
H. 337, Government Operations committee, printing and distribution of State publications.
H. 366, Copeland-Hanzas, 2021 technical corrections.
S. 117, extending health care regulatory flexibility during and after the COVID-19 pandemic and to coverage of health care services delivered by audio-only telephone.