What makes a crime be considered as a hate crime?
The FBI defines a hate crime (aka bias crime) to be "a criminal offense committed against a person, property or society which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientatio, or ethnicity/national origin." 1 Thus:
If a thug beats up a randomly selected victim, the assault would not be considered a hate crime.
If a person assaults a friend or acquaintance out of anger, the assault would not be a hate crime.
If a thug beats up a victim who is a stranger and was selected because of their race, it would be a hate crime.
If a person delivers a hate speech denigrating all Jews, or Afro-Americans, or gays, then this would not be considered a hate crime anywhere in the United States, because no criminal act has occurred. Hate speech is protected under the First Amendment.
However, existing federal legislation does not recognize as hate crimes those criminal acts which specifically target women, the disabled and homosexuals.
Official definitions of hate crimes:
Typical hate crime laws criminalize the use of force, or the threat of force, against a person because they are a member of a specific, protected group. 2 Four definitions of the term "hate crime" are:
Hate Crimes Statistics Act (1990): "crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, including where appropriate the crimes of murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation, arson, and destruction, damage or vandalism of property." ( Public Law 101-275)
Bureau of Justice Administration (BJA; 1997): "hate crimes--or bias-motivated crimes--are defined as offenses motivated by hatred against a victim based on his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or national origin."
Anti-Defamation League (ADL): A hate crime is "any crime committed because of the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender [male or female] or sexual orientation." 3
National Education Association (NEA): "Hate crimes and violent acts are defined as offenses motivated by hatred against a victim based on his or her beliefs or mental or physical characteristics, including race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation." 4
The word "perceived" is important, because many vicious assaults are based in error on the incorrect belief that the victim is Jewish, gay, or a member of some other group that the perpetrator hates.
Traditional hate crime legislation protects persons because of "his race, color, religion or national origin," as in the case of the 1969 federal hate crimes law. (18 U.S.C. Section 245). Most state laws now include additional protected groups. Some laws are restrictive and only protect a member of a group if she/he is involved in specific activities. For example, the current (1969) federal law only applies if the crime happens when a person is attending a public school or is at work or participating in one of four other "federally protected activities."
Existing state and federal hate crime laws:
The ADL reports (as of 2001-SEP-21) that: Seven states have no hate crime law (Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Wyoming) 12
Twenty states have laws that do not include sexual orientation as a protected group (AL, AR, CO, GA, ID, MD, MI, MS, MO, MT, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, TX, UT, VA, WV) 13
Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have laws that do protect people on the basis of their sexual orientation. (AZ, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, IL, IA, KY, LA, ME, MA, MN, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NY, OR, RI, TN, VT, WA, WI) 13
On 2000-JUL-4, Kentucky became the latest state to have hate crime bill signed into law which protects persons of all sexual orientations.
The 1969 federal hate crime law: Covers race, color, religion and national origin only.
Does not include sexual orientation, gender or disability status.
Only applies if the victim of a crime is engaged in one of six federally protected activities.