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A hate crime, or bias crime, is typically referenced as an offense that involves targeted persecution (often physical, but also emotional or psychological) of an individual for their (perceived or real) membership in a particular religious, racial, ethnic, gender or LGBTQ group. Some states, also protect political affiliation under state-level hate crime or bias crime statutes.
An individual committing assault against a victim due to the victim being an observant Muslim, a religion for which the offender has demonstrated deep-seated animosity, would qualify as a hate crime for example.
A hate crime is an unlawful act motivated by bias based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. A “hate” offense is not in and of itself a crime, but the charge enhances the possible penalties. Once the prosecutor has proved that a defendant committed a crime and the offense was motivated by hate toward a specific group or characteristic, the severity of the punishment increases.
While hate crimes are federally mandated laws, three states — namely Wyoming, South Carolina and Arkansas — do not carry state-level hate crime or bias crime statutes.
At the federal level, hate crimes are generally classified as felonies given that there is a requisite harming, or serious attempt to do harm, to a victim. The punishment for a hate crime depends on the severity of the offense. If the assault results in the death of the victim, an attempt to kill the victim, aggravated sexual abuse of the victim or kidnapping — the maximum penalty can include life imprisonment. Otherwise, the maximum penalty is no more than 10 years in jail.
State level laws vary in the handling of hate crimes or bias crimes, with most jurisdictions allowing both misdemeanor and felony charges related to hate crimes. In some states, all hate crimes are considered to be felonies, while in others, hate crimes can either be classified as misdemeanors or as felony offenses.
The penalty for misdemeanor hate crime-related charges typically reaches a maximum of one year in county jail in addition to restitution or monetary fines, while those convicted of felony hate crime-related charges could face up to 10, 15 or even 20 years imprisonment, depending on the particulars of their offense.
A hate crime differs from other categories of crime in two particularly ways.
First, the majority of other crimes focus their requisites in the realm of individual rights, responsibilities and the relationship between the offender and the victim outside of most sociopolitical framing. Hate crimes, rely almost entirely on the necessity for the offender to have an ideological reason (based on a deeply rooted bias or hate for one or more of the victim’s identity or biological groups) to motivate their criminal actions.
Second, hate crime-related charges are typically sought as penalty enhancements rather than as stand-alone charges. It is rare to see hate crime charges alone, rather than with other offenses such as assault, attempted murder or murder, sexual abuse and battery. Hate crime-related charges allow prosecutors, in most jurisdictions, to seek escalated penalties for the alleged perpetrator in response to the severity and maliciousness of their offense(s).
If you are convicted of a hate crime, your punishment can be increased and you could face serious time in prison. Call a Chicago attorney skilled in the defense of hate crimes to ensure you receive the best representation and avoid being sentenced to an enhanced penalty.
If you are facing federal hate crime charges, it is strongly advised that you seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney at your earliest convenience.
Not only can retaining skilled and attentive legal counsel increase your odds of avoiding a conviction for hate crime-related charges, but also, in the event that taking your case to trial may prove disadvantageous, your lawyer will be best equipped to negotiate any potential plea deal on your behalf.
A conviction on charges related to hate or bias crimes is a serious matter, leaving you with a criminal record. For these reasons, among others, it is vitally important to retain adequate legal counsel.
An attorney can often resolve your particular legal issue faster and better than trying to do it alone. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal system, while avoiding costly mistakes or procedural errors. You should seek out an attorney whose practice focuses on the area of law most relevant to your issue.
An experienced lawyer should be able to communicate a basic “road map” on how to proceed. The lawyer should be able to walk you through the anticipated process, key considerations, and potential pitfalls to avoid. Once you’ve laid out the facts of your situation to the lawyer, he/she should be able to frame expectations and likely scenarios to help you understand your legal issue.
A reputable attorney will be very upfront about how he/she will charge you. The three most common fee structures that attorneys use to charge for their services are:
Depending on your specific legal situation, it’s possible that only one type of fee structure is available. For instance, criminal defense attorneys almost always bill by the hour. In a flat fee arrangement, an attorney accepts a one-time payment to help you resolve your issue. With a contingent fee agreement, the client pays little to nothing upfront and the attorney receives a percentage of the money recovered if you win your case.
Pro se – This Latin term refers to representing yourself in court instead of hiring professional legal counsel. Pro se representation can occur in either criminal or civil cases.
Statute – Refers to a law created by a legislative body. For example, the laws enacted by Congress are statutes.
Subject matter jurisdiction – Requirement that a particular court have authority to hear the claim based on the specific type of issue brought to the court. For example, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court only has subject matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy filings, therefore it does not have the authority to render binding judgment over other types of cases, such as divorce.