Connecticut Lawmakers Push 'Knockout Game' Bill, Citing Various 'Feelings' As Evidence Something Must Be Done

from the can-I-legislate-a-feeling? dept

A few states are still wrapped up in the "knockout game" panic, despite there being very little evidence that it's even a thing, much less something that can't be handled by existing assault laws. But since no panic can be allowed to escape unlegislated, sweaty-browed legislators are pushing bad, broadly-written bills in order to put an end to this scourge, one that lies somewhere between "vodka tampon" and "jenkem" on the scale of believability.

South Carolina's attempt is a complete disaster. It aims to criminalize the act of recording criminal activity, supposedly because no knockout game player ever lets a knockout go unrecorded. The list of unintended consequences that will spring from that addition is longer than most career criminals' rap sheets. Again, aiding, abetting and criminal conspiracy laws are all on the books and could be applied to both the person delivering the blow and to the person recording it. In short, a stupid and mostly redundant bill, words that also aptly describe the Connecticut legislature's attempt to turn the knockout game into its own criminal offense.

Legislation aimed at discouraging the “knockout game” cleared the Judiciary Committee on Monday over opposition from lawmakers who say the unprovoked attacks addressed in the bill are not a problem in Connecticut.

The bill, which passed 31-10, would apply in criminal cases where an attacker strikes someone in the head without provocation and with the intent of knocking them unconscious. The legislation makes that attack a Class D felony with a mandatory two-year sentence. It also requires juvenile courts to transfer 16- and 17-year-olds accused of the crime to the adult criminal justice system.
The bill amends the statute applying to 2nd degree assault to add the following language.
or (6) with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person by rendering such other person unconscious, and without provocation by such other person, he causes such injury to such other person by striking such other person in the head.
As Connecticut public defender Gideon points out in his blog post, this makes anyone who goes for a knockout (or intends to) subject to a harsher penalty than someone handing out a much more brutal beating.
[P]ursuant to this amendment to the Assault in the Second Degree statute, you will now be subjected to a harsher penalty for one knockout punch than you would be if you took a baseball bat and beat the crap out of someone. Doesn't that make a lot of sense?
Of course, it doesn't make sense. But neither does claiming the knockout game is so pervasive it needs its own law. It's apparently headed towards epidemic levels if the state doesn't act, at least according to the wealth of statistics provided by proponents of the bill.
[Rep. Joe] Verrengia said it was difficult to determine how many of the attacks have occurred when he was asked Monday if there was any evidence suggesting that a large number have been committed by 16- or 17-year-old offenders.

"I tried to wrap my arms around it, I tried to get statistics, but it's very difficult to do so by virtue of the present reporting requirements by various law enforcement agencies," he said. ". . . I think if you were to ask [victims] how many assaults have there been throughout the state of Connecticut, they would say, 'One too many.'"
Fully justified. "One too many." No stats, just feelings. Feelings on top of feelings on top of gut instincts on top of "sending a message."
Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said she understood the concerns of opponents but agreed that the crime should come with a more severe penalty.

"This isn't kids just playing around having fun. Although they think that's what it is because they've decided it's a 'game.' But there are people who have lost — pregnant women who have lost children because of it," she said. "At the very least, if this sends a message to these kids that think this is funny, I think we've done our job."
Oh, I see. It's not a real law. It's a message. Except it's a message with a mandatory 2-year sentence and the opportunity to be tried as an adult. And all over something the main bill pusher can't even "wrap his arms around." SEEMS BAD. DO SOMETHING!

How bad is this legislative "something?" The bill's addition to the assault statute renders itself impotent.
Finally, do you know how badly they've destroyed logic? They've ruined their own bill and made it completely useless. How? Re-read the bill. What is the intent requirement in order to convict someone? That's right. "Intent to cause serious physical injury by rendering such other person unconscious."

Good luck proving that. Ever. I can almost guarantee that this subsection will never, ever be used because there's no damn "knockout game" and because no prosecutor can ever prove that intent.
Add to that the inverted logic of Rep. Verrengia (again), who feels assault victims who have been rendered unconscious (or seemed to have been assaulted with that intent) should have an upgraded victim status.
Verrengia said he was seeking to make the victims of unprovoked attacks a protected class similar to how the law treats victims who are handicapped, pregnant, or blind.

"Although the victims in this case may not be legally blind, they are certainly blindsided by this sort of attack," Verrengia said. ". . . I believe it warrants that sort of penalty."
So many logical leaps made solely with the intent of curbing a criminal activity so (supposedly) dangerously prevalent no one has any stats on it. This bill is the epitome of "doing something." Everyone pushing it forward has plenty of feelings about the subject at hand but not a single one has offered anything in the way of evidence to justify rewriting this law. Laws are not emotional. They may be applied badly and enforced randomly, giving them the appearance of highly emotional entities, but they are most beneficial to society when they aren't conceived, written and argued by lawmakers who have allowed something as irrational as emotions to guide their hand.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2014 @ 12:11pm

    I don't see the problem here

    [P]ursuant to this amendment to the Assault in the Second Degree statute, you will now be subjected to a harsher penalty for one knockout punch than you would be if you took a baseball bat and beat the crap out of someone. Doesn't that make a lot of sense?


    But from the current second degree assault statute:

    (1) With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person;


    That would cover a severe beating with a baseball bat. Heck, if the bat was considered a "dangerous implement" they could bump it to first degree assault which carries a much greater penalty than this. You're always going to find an instance of where conduct A carries a lighter penalty than conduct B even though they appear to be similar. If you beat someone up and cause serious injury with the assistance of 2 other people, that's a greater penalty than if you beat them up and cause serious injury with only 1 other person, even if the injuries are exactly the same (or even if the injuries are more severe with fewer people), for example.

    The conduct prohibited by the proposed change is already, by definition, second degree assault. The proposed law only adds a minimum sentence of 2 years and mandates that those over 16 who are accused of this be tried as an adult. I don't think that's out of line. The conduct in question is more serious than normal second degree assault because it is unprovoked and involves a blow to the head strong enough to produce unconsciousness, which can be very dangerous.

    Does anyone here think that if a 16 year old "with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person by rendering such other person unconscious, and without provocation by such other person, []causes such injury to such other person by striking such other person in the head" that they should NOT be tried as an adult and get at least 2 years?

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