Punishment For Hate Crimes
Any crime motivated by a bias against a person or group based on their ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, religion or another characteristic is a hate crime. These crimes can either be committed against the people themselves or their property.
There are both state and federal laws that prohibit hate crimes, but proving a particular bias is very difficult. Any type of crime can warrant some form of punishment, from fines and short prison stays for misdemeanors to long term imprisonment for felonies. Once it has been determined that a suspect willfully committed an offense, proof must be given that indicates the deed was motivated by a particular bias against a specific characteristic in order to show that it was also a hate crime. When this can be proven, the severity of the crime automatically increases. Any punishment that would have been given out for a wrong doing also will increase if it is shown to have been driven by hatred.
People often wonder why hate crime punishment is harsher than for crimes that are not motivated by any type of bias. The basic reason for this is that most crimes are directed at an individual, but hate crimes are against an entire population segment. A burglar who breaks into a random home does so for personal gain, and usually doesn’t even know who lives in the home they are invading. Conversely, a person who chooses a victim based on a particular bias is singling out a characteristic that is common to a particular group of people. The judiciary branch has cracked down on these types of crimes in the hopes of deterring people from committing them. There have been many disputes about whether or not this practice is legal, and the matter even reached the United States Supreme Court. Their decision was that it is legal to increase penalties for hate crimes and that it does not violate the Constitution in any way.
In order for a hate crime to receive additional punishment, the state in which the crime was committed must have rules against that specific offense. All but 5 states have rules against crimes based on a bias against ethnicity, race or religion, but only 32 have laws that protect people who are victimized because of their sexuality or gender. Fewer still have protections for misdeeds involving age and gender biases. Members of the federal government are attempting to include all of these categories in the list of hate related criminal activities that they prosecute so that every example of this crime will warrant harsher forms of punishment.