What Is a Hate Crime?

What Is a Hate Crime?

Understanding Hate Crimes in Georgia

Approximately 250,000 hate crimes were committed every year between 2004 and 2015 in the US, experts estimate. These crimes often involve violent offenses, such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or threats to commit such crimes. However, a common misconception is that hate crimes are fueled by rage and anger, but in this context, “hate” refers to bias against people with specific, perceived characteristics such as:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender
  • Mental disability
  • Physical disability

Georgia was one of four states without a hate crimes law, according to the US Department of Justice, but that changed on June 26, 2020, following the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was a Black man who was shot and killed by two white men while he was going on a jog near Brunswick, GA. A third white man captured the murder on video and posted it online, which sparked public outrage and a widespread cry for justice.

As a result, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 426, marking the state’s first hate crime legislation which went into effect on July 1, 2020. The recently-enacted law imposes additional penalties for crimes motivated by a victim’s perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability.

If convicted of a hate crime in Georgia, a defendant will face the following penalties:

  • 6 to 12 months in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine if the defendant was convicted for a designated misdemeanor, which includes:
    • Simple assault
    • Simple battery
    • Battery
    • Criminal trespass
    • Misdemeanor theft by taking
  • At least 2 years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine if the defendant was convicted of a felony

Federal Hate Crimes Laws

The federal government enacted various hate crime laws that address a wide range of threats which include, but are not limited to:

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009: Makes it a federal crime to willfully cause bodily injury, or attempt to do so using a dangerous weapon, because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin.

Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing: Makes it a crime to use or threaten to use force to interfere with housing rights because of the victim’s race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.

Damage to Religious Property, Church Arson Prevention Act: Prohibits the intentional defacement, damage, or destruction of religious real property because of its religious nature, where the crime affects interstate or foreign commerce, or because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of the people associated with the property.

Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights: Criminalizes the use or threats to use force to willfully interfere with any person because of race, color, religion, or national origin and because they are participating in a federally protected activity such as public education, employment, jury service, etc.

Conspiracy Against Rights: Makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to them by the Constitution or US laws.

Facing Hate Crime Accusations?

If you are accused of a hate crime in Georgia, you must hire a good lawyer who can fight to get your charges reduced or dismissed, such as by asserting that your alleged offense was not motivated by a person’s characteristics or beliefs. We are aware of what’s at stake in your case, as a hate crime conviction can devastate your life and rob you of your freedom, future, and peace of mind. Not to mention, a criminal record will make it challenging for you to obtain employment, housing, loans, licenses and certifications, and much more.

With this in mind, you should waste no time in contacting our Hinesville criminal defense lawyers at (866) 580-3089. With 40+ years of collective legal experience in your corner, you can feel confident knowing that we are your trusted line of defense.