June and July have seen no shortage of controversial events and tragedies around the country—all of which have stemmed from bias and discrimination against certain groups. For one, federal officials are now investigating the church shooting in Charleston as a hate crime, since there is much evidence that Dylan Roof was motivated by hate and racism.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, is putting together a task force to address the increase in harassment and assaults against gays, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender in the Capitol Hill area after the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage came out. Murray, who is openly gay, is asking police officers to participate in the group. There were 126 bias incidents reported citywide in 2014, up from 110 in 2013, the mayor said, citing Seattle Police Department statistics. Within the police precinct covering Capitol Hill and adjacent neighborhoods, there were 35 such reported incidents in 2014, 11 more than in 2013.
What is Malicious Harassment?
Seattle is one of the 45 states in the nation that has its own state “hate crime” statute. “Malicious Harassment” is the legal term used for these types of crimes, codified under RCW 9a.36.080.
A person is guilty of malicious harassment if he or she maliciously and intentionally commits one of the following acts based on the perception of the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability:
- Physically injuring them
- Physically destroys their property
- Threatens a specific person or group. The victim's fear from the threat must a fear that a reasonable person would have under all the circumstances. Derogatory words that do not put a person in reasonable fear for their safety is not considered malicious harassment.
If you are mistaken about the victim's identity but still act based on those beliefs, it is still considered malicious harassment.
Malicious harassment is a class C felony, punishable under RCW 9a.20.021 by a prison sentence of up to 5 years and/or a fine up to $10,000. It essentially serves as a form of enhanced sentencing for charges such as assault and battery and harassment.
Do not get malicious harassment confused with malicious mischief. They are separate crimes.
“Let My Extensive Experience as a Former Prosecutor Work For You."
When you understand the potential consequences of being accused of a hate crime and having a felony conviction, you will understand how important it is to work with an experienced attorney who knows the local courts and inner workings of law enforcement. Seattle criminal defense lawyer Steve Karimi has been zealously defending people's freedom and keeping them out of jail for decades. If you have been unjustly accused of malicious harassment, we can help you to clear your name and avoid a felony conviction on your record. Contact the law offices of Steve Karimi today, or call 206-621-8777 to schedule a free initial consultation. 24-hour-a-day call service is available at 206-660-6200.