Criminal Defense Lawyer
Far too often, there are media reports where a person has not only been charged with a crime, but the individual also faces additional hate crimes charges. Take for example a person who attacks another person who is Muslim. Not only could the person face assault charges, they could also be charged with a hate crime if the prosecutor has evidence that shows the attack was motivated by the alleged victim’s religious beliefs or ethnicity.
What Are Hate Crimes?
Although many people may associate hate crimes with race, there are several other categories that are covered under hate crime laws. As a criminal defense lawyer can explain, in many states, a person commits a hate crime when he or she commits certain crimes against another or group of other individuals, because of their race, color, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin. The crimes covered under state or federal hate crime laws are:
- Assault and aggravated assault
- Misdemeanor theft and criminal damage to property
- Criminal trespass to residence, vehicles, or real property
- Mob action
- Disorderly conduct
- Harassment by telephone or through electronic communications
A hate crime is a felony, and the severity of the penalty depends on whether or not it is a first offense, and on where the crime occurs, for example at a religious place of worship.
In addition to an imprisonment term, a judge can order a person convicted of a hate crime to pay back any expenses the victim had because of the crime, and/or order a hefty fine. If the judge sentences a person to probation or conditional discharge, the defendant will also be required to complete community service. If a person is convicted of a hate crime for damaging religious fixtures or decorations, the person shall be required to take classes focused on discouraging hate crimes.
While the criminal charges alone can be severe, the repercussions of a civil lawsuit by the victim of a hate crime can also be severe. If a victim is injured, he or she can sue for the cost of any hospital bills and other costs suffered because of the crime. Additionally, the judge or jury in the civil case can decide to send a message to the defendant by awarding extra money award to the victim.
Hate crimes can be hard to prosecute because conviction depends on proving a person’s subjective hate. However, if the person accused of the crime says something during the commission of the crime, for example, uses racial or homosexual slurs, the prosecution can rely on these statements in court. Additionally, if the defendant belongs to certain groups or has written statements that show hate towards a group listed in the law, the prosecution can use this as evidence too.