Murder of Three Muslims May Not be a Hate Crime

Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, federal hate crime charges, Numerous national media outlets reported on the recent murder of three Muslim students. According to investigators, a man allegedly shot and killed the three Muslim students as the result of a parking space dispute. While a number of individuals (including the surviving family members of the deceased) want to see the shooter charged with a hate crime, others doubt that this particular type of crime fits the definition of a hate crime.

Basic Principles Governing Hate Crimes

As a previous post described, a hate crime is a crime committed against another person or group of people where the crime is motivated by a bias against that person or group. That bias can be on account of that person or group’s race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender. Because of the nature of these crimes, hate crimes are often punished more severely than a normal crime.

However, as some point out, just because a crime is committed against someone who is a member of a protected class does not automatically make the crime a hate crime. Instead, there must be evidence showing that the crime was motivated by a bias against a particular protected identifier. This can be demonstrated through objective evidence such as membership in hate groups, Facebook or other social media posts, and statements made to friends and family members. Where this sort of evidence is lacking, however, it can be difficult to prove the existence of a hate crime.

What To Do If You Are Charged with a Federal Hate Crime

The vast majority of individuals who are charged with a federal crime will not be charged with a hate crime. If you do find yourself charged with a federal hate crime, however, you should take the matter very seriously. If you are convicted, you can face significant penalties and fines. You should retain an experienced federal criminal defense attorney and discuss:

  • Your affiliations and memberships.  If you are a member of a group that espouses hatred or disdain toward others, your defense attorney will need to know the details of your involvement. Minor involvement such as paying dues or attending the occasional meeting may not go far in suggesting a crime was motivated by bias, whereas heavy involvement such as organizing activities and holding prominent leadership positions might.
  • Social media posts, conversations, and other statements. If you made a statement (whether on the internet, to another person, in print, etc.) that could be construed as showing a bias against a particular group, your attorney should know about these statements, to whom they were made, and any important contextual details that might help in understanding the comments.
  • Mitigating evidence. If there are things in your background that show you do not harbor a bias (such as volunteering for inner city youth or helping disadvantaged minorities), your attorney should be aware of these details.

Whatever you do, you should take a hate crime charge seriously.  The Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney stand ready to help protect your freedom and reputation.  Contact our experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys today at 312-270-0999.

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