Hate Crime Laws in Illinois

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hate crime, intolerance, Chicago criminal defense lawyerInvestigators are currently searching for the individuals responsible for a brutal attack inside a Manhattan eatery earlier this week. Two men were attacked at a Chelsea neighborhood barbecue restaurant in what many are considering a hate crime, apparently motivated by the sexual orientation of the victims. The incident was captured on cell-phone video by another patron in the establishment, leading friends and authorities to seek the public’s help in identifying the assailants.

Hate Crimes

While this particular incident occurred in New York City, accounts of such actions come from all over the country on a regular basis. In the Chicago area alone, more than 40 cases have been prosecuted by the Cook County state’s attorney under the Illinois hate crime statute since 2011.

What makes a hate crime different than any other type of crime is the motivation of the perpetrator. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has defined hate crime to be “the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.” Illinois is among the 41 states which, along with the District of Columbia, have enacted laws specifically dealing with hate crimes. These statutes allow for increased prosecution and more severe criminal penalties for crimes committed with such intent and motivation.

Hate Crime in Illinois

The law concerning hate crime in Illinois specifies, similar to the DOJ’s definition, that criminal action based on a person’s perceived or actual “race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability or national origin” is subject to prosecution as a hate crime. Such criminal activity includes, but is not limited to:

  • Assault;
  • Aggravated assault;
  • Battery;
  • Misdemeanor theft;
  • Criminal trespass;
  • Criminal property damage;
  • Mob action;
  • Disorderly conduct; and
  • Harassment.

In general, the charges specified by the hate crime statute are normally prosecuted as less serious offenses, absent the hate crime motivation. Adding the element of intolerance or bigotry allows them to be charged as, at minimum, a Class 4 felony and up to a Class 2 felony depending on the case. In addition to the criminal penalties associated with such charges, the hate crime law may also require a convicted individual to pay restitution to the victim.

If you have been charged with a hate crime, or any other misdemeanor or felony, you need the help of a qualified lawyer. Contact an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney today to schedule your free consultation. Our team will review your case and help you understand your options in protecting your future.

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