The social climate of the United States keeps changing, and one of the results is an increase in tensions between different groups of people. According to recent reports, hate crimes in this country have been steadily rising for some time.
With all of the attention on this issue, it’s wise to learn more about exactly what makes something a hate crime – and what that could mean for your future.
Hate crimes are motivated by someone’s characteristics
Under Illinois law, a hate crime involves assault, battery, acts of intimidation and stalking, criminal trespass, harassment and other actions that are motivated by the victim’s “actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, citizenship, immigration status, or national origin…” It’s important to understand that hate crimes can also include cyberstalking and online harassment.
It’s also important to understand what does not constitute a hate crime. Incidents that show a bias against a group of people for their characteristics, such as mere name-calling (including the use of slurs) and mocking someone for their mannerisms or in imitation of their practices may be offensive, but they don’t rise to the level of a crime.
When prosecutors declare something a hate crime, they’re looking to enhance the penalties that a defendant faces. Since hate crimes are felonies, a conviction often means prison time. Conviction of a hate crime can also increase the likelihood that a defendant will also face civil claims for any injuries or emotional distress they have caused.
If you’re accused of a hate crime, don’t try to explain your actions or reason with the prosecutor. Experienced legal guidance can help you explore all your defense options and protect your future.