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What’s a hate crime, and what penalties exist for committing one?

| Feb 1, 2019 | Federal Crimes |

Just this past week, an openly gay African-American actor from the television show Empire was allegedly approached by two pedestrians in Chicago, taunted with racial epithets and homophobic slurs, doused with a chemical and had a rope placed around this neck. Now police are searching for suspects to charge with hate crimes. There are many different types of actions that may fall under the umbrella of this offense.

According to 18 U.S. Code § 249, a hate crime is any type of perceived or actual bodily injury committed by one person against another because of their color, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, gender, race or religion.

Any Minneapolis defendant who stands accused of having tried to maim another using a gun or any other type of weapon, fire or an explosive device may be charged with a hate crime. Individuals in Minnesota who are convicted of such offenses may be fined and face up to 10 years in prison.

If the victim dies as a result of the injuries they receive or they’re sexually assaulted, kidnapped or otherwise abused, then a convicted defendant may be sentenced to a life term of imprisonment.

Defendants who transport their victims across state or country borders or use a facility of foreign commerce may face enhanced charges.

The hate crimes law 18 U.S. Code § 249 gives federal authorities the right of jurisdictions to prosecute such matters instead of individual states doing so. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is allowed seven years from the date of the offense to press charges against a defendant who inflicted bodily injury upon their victim. There’s no statute of limitations in cases in which an individual dies.

By the time federal prosecutors notify you that you’re facing criminal charges, they’ve already spent extensive time compiling their evidence. They’ve also been able to get more than a dozen of your peers that make up a grand jury to agree that they’ve successfully proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt. With such odds stacked against you, you’ll want to be represented by an attorney who has a proven track record of success.