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“Hate crimes” and “hate speech” are hot topics in the realms of education, the courts, the media, and in our daily lives.  These are two separate but related issues.  “Hate speech” will be a subsequent post.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (10th edition), a “hate crime” is a “ felony or misdemeanor motivated by the perpetrator’s prejudice, usu. an intense bigotry on the basis of the victim’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation.”

FEDERAL LAW:

The Civil Rights Act of 1968, codified in federal law at 18 U.S.C. s. 245 (b)(2) permits federal prosecution of anyone who “by force or threat of force willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with… any person because of his race, color, religion or national origin” or because of the victim’s attempt to engage in one of six types of federally protected activities, such as attending school, patronizing a public facility, applying for employment, acting as a juror in a state court, or voting.

This law has been expanded by subsequent legislation throughout the years, to include hate crimes relating to religious property, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.  See 18 U.S.C. s. 249: “Hate crime acts”.

The fundamental premise that it is consistent with the U.S. Constitution to punish crimes on the basis of their hate and bias motives has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the case of Wisconsin v Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a defendant’s First Amendments rights were not violated by the application of a Wisconsin statute that increased his sentence for aggravated battery because he intentionally selected his victim based on the victim’s race.

The federal government allows individual states to designate crimes motivated by bigotry as hate crimes.  Hate Crimes laws vary from state to state, however, and some states do not have any.  Massachusetts is among the states that have specific laws against hate crimes.

MASSACHUSETTS LAW

MGL c.22C  s.32 defines Hate Crime.

MGL c.265 s. 39 discusses Assault and Battery for Purpose of Intimidation, “because of [a] person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability….”

Commonwealth v. Kelly, 470 Mass. 682 (2015), is a recent Massachusetts case that clarifies the nature of the offense of Assault and Battery for the Purpose of Intimidation, a hate crime.

 

The Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries have books on civil rights and hate crimes, including:

Hate crimes law (2005-) (West) [For recent statistics, see Hate Crimes Law (2016 edition, Zachary J. Wolfe), “Appendix G: Hate crime reporting by state”.]

Hate crimes on campus: the problem and efforts to confront it, (Stephen Wessler and Margaret Moss; Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 2001)

Massachusetts hate crimes, 2005, (Commonwealth Fusion Center, 2005)

STATISTICS:

The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990, 28 U.S.C. s.534 , reauthorized and made permanent in 1996   [110 Stat. 1392, 1394 (1996)], requires the Attorney General to collect statistics on hate crimes in the U.S.

One can access the federal government statistics on hate crimes via the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) section on Hate Crime.

[*The Bureau of Justice Statistics numbers differ from the FBI statistics because they are victim-reported, rather than reported by the police.  Additionally, since they are victim-reported, bias-motivated murders are not included in the Bureau of Justice Statistics report.]

Reporting of hate crimes to the federal government depends largely on which states have hate crimes laws, which acts are covered in each state, and whether local police departments opt to report their statistics.  The Anti-Defamation League posts a chart and map showing the kinds of hate crimes laws currently existing in the various 50 states.

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