When is a Crime a Hate Crime?

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Sep 20

Lewis & Laws

When is a Crime a Hate Crime?

by Lewis & Laws

When is a Crime a Hate Crime?

In today's world, it may not always be clear whether a crime falls under the "hate crime" umbrella. A hate crime is a crime which includes an act of violence or hostility directed at a person because of who they are—or who someone thinks they are.  When a person is the victim of a crime or an act of hostility based on one of the following things, then a hate crime may have occurred:

  • Religion
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Transgender Identity

When an “Incident” Can Be Classified as a Hate Crime

Anyone can be a victim of a hate crime, based on the above personal characteristics—or a person's belief or perception of the above characteristics.  Hate incidents may include any of the following—which turn into a hate crime when the law is broken:

  • Verbal abuse—offensive “jokes” or name calling
  • Physical attacks—pushing, punching, kicking, hitting or spitting on another person
  • Murder
  • Sexual Assault
  • Hate mail
  • Hoax or abusive phone calls
  • Threats of violence
  • Harassment of any kind
  • Bullying
  • Harm or damage to another person’s home, vehicle, pet, etc.
  • Graffiti on another’s property or in a public place
  • Abusive or harassing online behaviors
  • The circulation of discriminatory posters or literature

Essentially, any criminal offense could be classified as a hate crime, if the crime was perpetrated because of prejudice or hostility based on sexual orientation, transgender identity, religion, race, disability. Under the law, criminal incidents based on other personal characteristics such as belonging to an alternative subculture, appearance or age are not considered hate crimes.

Is It a Hate Crime?

Many people who are the victims of hate crimes are hesitant to report the crime as such because they are not sure hatred motivated the crime. The offense could be one isolated incident, or it could be repeated harassment or physical assaults by the same person or group of people. When a crime is classified as a hate crime, a stricter sentence could be imposed under the Criminal Justice Act of 2003.

A Recent Hate Crime Incident

A recent video showed a man at a Chicago forest preserve chastising a woman who was wearing a shirt with the Puerto Rican flag on it. The man continued to berate the woman, who complained to a Cook County Forest Preserve officer—who did nothing. The man has been charged with two felony counts of committing a hate crime as well as misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and assault. The Preserves officer was placed on desk duty and later resigned his post. This is an example of how a relatively minor incident could be charged as a serious crime. While the man would have only been charged with the misdemeanor crimes of assault and disorderly conduct, because he is berating the woman based on her perceived race—a person from Puerto Rico—felony charges are also filed.

According to the Washington Post, the number of hate crimes has increased for the fourth straight year in major cities. An analysis of reported hate-crime data from 38 cities across the country—including the ten largest cities—was done, with seven of the ten largest cities showing an increase in hate crimes. The most significant increase was in San Jose, CA, with an increase of 132 percent in the number of hate crimes from 2016 to 2018. The most common type of reported hate crimes are those motivated by race or ethnicity, with African Americans being the most targeted group. Jews are the most targeted religious group for hate crimes, representing about 19 percent of all hate crimes in major cities.

Have you or someone you love been arrested and charged with a hate crime? Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers at Lewis & Laws.

If you have been charged with a hate crime, take the charges very seriously, and speak to an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney at Lewis & Laws, PLLC as soon as possible. Our attorneys have represented individuals in Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Everett, and throughout the state of Washington. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!

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