Racial violence has been a constant throughout American history, but what is a hate crime, and what happens when someone is accused of committing one?
Hate is an ambiguous emotion that often clouds judgment, creates bias, and fuels violence. According to Arizona and federal law, hate crimes follow a simple equation:
A crime + motivation for committing the crime based on bias = a hate crime
It’s important to understand that in the legal context, “hate” does not refer to an emotion or impulse. Instead, it is the word for biases against race, color, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, or disability. In other words, what separates a hate crime from any other criminal act is motivation – what makes a person act on their biases.
An emotion is a feeling we experience in the moment, but a bias is a deep-seated belief that one group of people is “less than.” Most prosecuted hate crimes involve race, religion, and sexual orientation, but hate crimes can impact countless communities.
One of the most common biases in existence is the bias or hatred for someone or a group of people because of some element of their identity. For example, Klu Klux Klan members have a bias against Black and African American people, while Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists have biases against transgender people.
Often, these biases are directed at a part of someone’s identity they cannot change. Black people cannot change their skin color, Palestinian people can’t change their nationality, and Jews cannot separate the historical intertwining of culture and religion.
However, regardless of how unchangeable these elements are, others will continue to hold people in contempt for their identity.
Attraction and Presentation
The LGBTQIA+ community includes many people who identify with specific labels or ideas associated with attraction and physical presentation. This community doesn’t just include gays and lesbians – nonbinary, trans, asexual, and bisexual people all fall into the LGBT category.
Who one is attracted to and how they choose to present themselves are another facet of identity, but attraction and presentation involve other elements like biology and perception. Just as people can’t change their race or nationality, sexual orientation is also unchangeable.
Hate crimes toward members of the queer community continue despite education and normalization of same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. When a person is attacked specifically for their attraction or presentation, it is a hate crime.
Like identity and attraction, religious bias has been around for centuries. From the Christian’s bias against pagans to the Catholic Church’s attack on Jews and Muslims, religious bias can occur between different religions, religious and non-religious people, and the government.
In some cases, a government may attempt to consolidate power by eliminating or silencing those who are less than 100% dedicated to their regime. When this happens, religious groups are often targeted.
Religious bias doesn’t have to be on a large scale. There have been several one-man attacks on churches, mosques, and holy places in the United States in the last decade alone. In most of these incidents, the aggressor admitted to specifically targeting these places because of their religious affiliation.
One of the least recognized biases are those against disabled people. Disabilities can be developmental, physical, mental, or the result of a traumatic injury. People with disabilities lack equal access to education, employment, and even public buildings.
Additionally, some individuals hate others because of their disabilities. They may despise their appearance, their need for accommodation, and the idea of disabilities in general. This bias is often acted upon in assisted care programs or retirement facilities where the patient’s family and support network is absent in favor of a medical staff that works with almost complete autonomy.
Guardianship programs also facilitate hate toward people with disabilities. Some public guardians are in it for the money and exploit the people in their care for their own benefit.
Penalties for Hate Crimes
Hate crimes do not have specific penalties in Arizona, but the penalties for crimes, especially hate crimes, extend beyond the justice system. A criminal record can follow you for years and rob you of opportunities and freedom.
If you are accused of a hate crime, you face the social stigma of being an accused offender and the stigma surrounding hateful people. A hate crime or even accusations could make it impossible to work in advocacy, public relations, certain government positions, C suite positions, and other sectors.
Don’t let criminal charges ruin your life. Contact Territorial Law, LLC today.