A hate crime is defined as a prejudice or bias-motivated crime that occurs when a victim is targeted because of his or her membership in a particular race or social group. Even if the victim does not actually belong to that group, the act can be classified as a hate crime if such “membership” was perceived. Perpetrators of hate crimes often target an individual based on gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, or religion. This is not, however, an exhaustive list.
Hate crimes and hate speech are distinctly different. Whereas hate speech is criminalized in and of itself, hate crimes involve a crime that exists even without the bias or prejudice but is elevated due to its prejudiced nature. For example, assault is a crime, but if a white Christian man assaults a black Muslim man, it may be classified as a hate crime.
According to a report released by the FBI on Tuesday, hate crimes are on the rise in MA. In fact, this type of criminal act increased by eight-percent from 2016 to 2017.
In 2017, a total of 427 hate crimes were reported by police. Of those, 232 were motivated by race, 118 by religion, 65 by sexual orientation, nine by disability, nine by gender identity, and eight by gender.
Hate Crimes on Campus
Of all the university and college campuses in MA, the most hate crimes occurred at Westfield State University. All 10 of those incidents were motivated by race or ethnicity, and two also involved the victim’s religion. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a hate crime or any other offense.
“Like many colleges and universities in Massachusetts and across the nation, our campus experienced multiple hate crimes in 2017-2018,” said Tricia Oliver, the school’s Director of Campus Communications. “Westfield State University addressed these terrible incidents openly, swiftly and comprehensively. We made it clear that hate will not be tolerated in any form on our campus.”
She went on to say that the school has implemented additional curriculum around diversity, installed more surveillance cameras and is working with local police following the rash of hate crimes last year.
“In the current calendar and academic year we have seen a sharp decline in such incidents and continue to be vigilant in addressing the issue,” said Oliver. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a hate crime or any other offense.
Intent and Penalties
A crime committed against a person who belongs to a protected group does not automatically make it a hate crime. For example, if someone robs a woman and takes her purse without knowing she is transgender, the act would not be a hate crime. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim was targeted due to his/her race, religion, gender identity, or for some other qualifying reason. Proving this can be quite difficult, and skilled legal counsel can be the difference between a slap on the wrist and years in prison. Under federal law, hate crimes are punishable by 10 years to life in prison.
Altman & Altman, LLP—Top Criminal Defense Law Firm Serving Boston and the Surrounding Areas
If you have been charged with any type of criminal offense, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with crimes for more than 50 years. Our experienced, knowledgeable lawyers have an impressive track record of getting clients’ charges reduced, or dropped entirely. We will thoroughly analyze the details of your case before determining the most appropriate legal strategy, and we’ll ensure that you fully understand your rights and options before moving forward. Don’t go through this difficult time alone, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.