If you were charged with a crime such as rape, assault, vandalism, or harassment and the alleged victim is a member of a protected class, you could face additional penalties for “evidencing prejudice while committing an offense.” In other words, you could be charged with a hate crime. However, the state will have to meet a particular burden of proof, and that’s where a skilled defense attorney can help.
What Is a Hate Crime?
A violent crime can be reclassified as a more serious offense if it is suspected that the victim was targeted because of one of the following characteristics:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- National origin
- Homeless status
- Advanced age
However, it takes more than just the personal characteristics of the victim to justify charges of a hate crime. The prosecutor also has to prove that the defendant was motivated to commit the crime by hatred or bias towards to victim. The use of a discriminatory slur is not sufficient to prove that a hate crime has occurred. Evidence must be presented that the perpetrator holds prejudiced views and targeted the victim because of a personal characteristic.
How a Defense Attorney Will Fight Hate Crime Charges
Hate crime charges are usually added to a base offense, such as robbery or assault. One possible defense is to prove that you didn’t commit the base crime, and therefore, are not guilty of a hate crime. If you are found guilty of the base crime, your attorney can fight the hate crime enhancement by presenting evidence of the following:
- You have no history of prejudice against people with the same personal characteristics as the victim.
- You do not associate with groups that target these individuals.
- You did not use discriminatory slurs, gestures, or symbols during the commission of the crime.
- You were unaware of the victim’s personal characteristics.
- You were not aware that language or markings you used are considered offensive to certain groups.
- Other evidence that you were not motivated by hate or prejudice.
A hate crime enhancement can add years to a prison sentence and raise fines substantially, so it is important that you hire the best defense attorney you can to fight these charges.
Have You Been Charged With a Federal Crime?