FBI statistics report an increase in hate crimes nationally over the last two years. Targets for these offenses revolve around many issues—religion, race, ethnicity, sexual preference. As these acts grow, how do authorities categorize actions as hate crimes? And what activities might be included?
The Definition of a Hate Crime or Malicious Harassment
When a person hates individuals or groups because of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicaps or appearances and acts out against them, there is potential for a hate crime.
There are three categories of potential activities.
- When someone causes physical injury to another person.
- When someone causes physical damage to or destroys the property of someone.
- When someone threatens a specific person or group of people causing fear of personal harm.
When evidence is shown that proves these activities were motivated by bias or prejudice with the intention of causing harm or causing fear or psychological harm, a hate crime could result. The criminal activities above grow even more serious when it is proven to be a hate crime. In 2009, the Obama administration established a Hate Crimes Prevention Act permitting federal assistance in investigating and prosecuting these activities. Plus, state hate crime laws impose tougher penalties on actors who target individuals for the sole reason of a personal characteristic.
What Types of Crimes Might Be Included in Hate Crime Charges?
Any one of these crimes could be elevated to a hate crime when the motivation is prejudice or bias.
- Harassment—sexual, physical, or verbal
- Criminal Trespassing
- Physical Assault
What Penalties Can Result from a Hate Crime Conviction?
Penalties for hate crimes vary from state to state and with the severity of the crime. When a serious crime is paired with a hate crime motivation, the penalty can be a severe as incarceration or even death. Other possible penalties can be fines, restitution to the victim, and completion of anti-racism classes or programs, or completion of anger management programs. The courts often attempt to help defuse the hatred through education. Courts can impose any of these penalties when the conviction of a hate crime occurs.
I Have Been Charged with a Hate Crime. What Should I Do?
When hate crime charges have been brought against you, you will need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can protect your constitutional rights and help you fight the charges by proving you were not motivated by hatred, prejudice, or bias.
Steve Karimi is an experienced criminal defense attorney with years of experience as a prosecutor. Today, he puts his experience to work helping people fight their criminal charges. Call Karimi Law to schedule your consultation. Get started planning your defense today.