Change is in the air and perhaps the symbol for this new era is Donald Trump, who was elected as president of the United States last November. Since his win was announced, the country saw 701 reports of hate crimes carried out across the nation — and Colorado is no exception. So, if you happen to be accused of a hate crime while living in Denver, it’s best to have an understanding of what it is. This way, you know what the charges against you mean and proceed to find a criminal defense lawyer who can represent you well.
Understanding Hate Crimes
Hate crimes are any criminal offense against a person or property motivated in part or in whole by an offender’s bias against gender, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or race. People can commit hate crimes through the destruction of property, assault and battery, and even homicide.
After the 2016 election results come out, the most common hate crimes committed are those related to property. Vandalized property with short messages such as HAIL TRUMP and TRUMP 2017 accompanied by racial slurs and hateful messages has begun to be a part of the landscape.
Penalty for Hate Crimes
In Colorado, there’s a specific charge for committing a hate crime, which may fall under a class 1 misdemeanor or a class 4 or 5 felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the act in question. When taken to federal court, however, hate crimes, as well as bias-motivated violence, can earn the offender prison time anywhere from 10 years to life. It may even result in the death penalty, like with the case of Dylann Roof, the first person to receive the death penalty for federal hate crimes.
Proving a Hate Crime
Prosecutors looking to convict a person of a hate crime will look into the motive behind it. For instance, attacks accompanied by gay slurs or hate speech may be used as evidence to prove the existence of a hate crime. Memberships in hate groups, possession of literature associated with bias, and personal writings containing hateful symbols or messages are other examples of hate crime evidence.
This should give you an idea of what to expect if you’re accused of committing a hate crime. In cases such as these, it’s best to find a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can help you get your charges dropped in the event that you’re falsely accused.