What Is a Hate Crime?

Illionois defense attorney, Illinois federal crimes lawyer, Illinois criminal defense lawyerAccording to the FBI, hate crimes in the United States rose by 17 percent in 2018. That makes it the third consecutive year that these numbers have increased. What may be even more troubling is that it has been estimated that less than ten percent of hate crimes in the country actually show up in the FBI’s data. But what exactly is a hate crime? Is it different than hate speech? And what are the penalties?

Hate crimes, and their penalties, can be very serious. Anyone charged with a hate crime needs to speak to a federal crimes lawyer in Illinois as soon as possible to give themselves the best chance of success in court.

What Is a Hate Crime?

The FBI classifies a hate crime as an additional crime tied to any other offense. If a person commits murder, arson, vandalism, assault, or any other crime with an added element of bias, it is considered a hate crime. That bias could be based on someone’s religion, sexual orientation, race, disability, or gender.

When these crimes are committed, and they have the additional element of bias, it is considered a hate crime. Hate crimes, in the United States, are considered federal crimes.

When someone is convicted of a hate crime, they are sentenced to penalties for the original offense they committed. Additional penalties, such as longer sentencing or higher fines, are then added to that original sentence for the hate crime element of the offense.

Difference in Hate Crimes and Hate Speech

Canada and the European Union both have laws pertaining to hate speech and the penalties involved if someone is convicted. In the United States though, hate speech is not a crime. It is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

For example, if someone assaulted someone due to their religion, that would be considered a hate crime in the United States. If someone only made disparaging or belittling remarks against someone based on their religion and did not hurt them, that would be considered hate speech. Therefore, there would be no crime committed.

Laws on Federal Hate Crimes

There are many laws pertaining to hate crimes in the United States. One of the earliest is found in the U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 1. The Church Arson Prevention Act was also passed by Congress in 1996. This makes it a crime to vandalize, damage, or destroy any religious property.

More recently, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was enacted by former President Obama in 2009. This act was named for two victims of a hate crime.

Contact a Federal Crimes Lawyer in Illinois

While facing a charge of a hate crime can seem hopeless, it is not. There are defenses available, and the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel can provide them. Call us today at 312-629-0669 to set up your free consultation. We will review your case, determine the best strategy for defense, and then fight to ensure your rights are upheld in the courtroom. When you need the best defense, you need a talented Chicago federal crimes lawyer. So do not wait, call us today.

Sources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/249

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/matthew_shepard_and_james_byrd_jr_hate_crimes_prevention_act

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