What Is Considered A “Hate Crime” In North Carolina?
We see news stories covering potential “hate crimes” all the time, some of them involving very serious, egregious crimes, but what constitutes a hate crime, exactly? According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a hate crime is one that is motivated by biases based on disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Victims may be individuals, businesses, institutions, government entities, religious organizations, or society/the public as a whole.
Nationwide, investigating agencies have report thousands of hate crimes committed each year, where more than 57 percent of those reported in 2016 were motivated by the victim’s race and more than half committed against African Americans, specifically. This is followed by crimes committed due to a victim’s religion and sexual orientation. However, given how narrowly North Carolina currently defines hate crimes, only a limited number of criminal prosecutions are brought each year in the state, as we discuss below.
Incidents & Trends Nationwide
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has been an overall nationwide increase in these crimes over the last two years—following the election of President Donald Trump. While the Department of Justice has indicated that hate crimes would be a top focus, the Department appears to be awaiting a task force report focusing on specific steps the Department can take in an effort to investigate and prosecute those accused of violating the civil rights of others before taking any affirmative action on this promise.
Hate Crime Prosecution in North Carolina
In North Carolina, investigators report hundreds of these crimes committed each year, where 99 percent are related to a victim’s ancestry, ethnicity, or race (followed by incidents motivated by a victim’s religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity).
Still, state law does not classify a number of crimes committed to be “hate crimes,” as the FBI does. In fact, in June of this year, a number of state senators filed a bill to add disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the scope of the state’s existing hate crimes law, which only currently covers crimes motivated by biases based on gender, race, and/or religion; precisely for this reason. Without the protection of state hate crime laws, lesbian gay bisexual transgender and queer (LGBTQ) victims have to rely on federal—not state—prosecutors to charge those accused under the Matthew Shepard Act, which relies on local and state police forces first identifying the murders as related to LGBTQ identity, and then communicating this to the FBI.
Contact Our North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you have been charged with a hate crime here in North Carolina, the stakes are high. This is a serious offense that carries serious penalties, and there is a chance that the scope of the law will only broaden to cover more acts in the future. Contact our criminal defense attorneys at the office of Dysart Willis today to find out how we can help.