Hate Crime: Enhancement of Punishment

Hate crimes are on the rise in the United States, reaching record highs in more than a decade. Every day, people are targeted with violence because of their identity, like their race, religion, color, or sexual orientation. These terrible acts are committed because of bias or prejudice and not only hurt individuals but also harm the unity of our communities.

Because of the recent increase in hate crimes, both states and the federal government have changed their hate crime laws. Many federal laws now make hate crimes a crime, and Texas has modified its laws to protect numerous minority groups.

What is Hate Crime in Texas Law?

A hate crime occurs when someone does an illegal act against another person or their property because they dislike the individual’s color, disability, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual preferences, or whether they are a police officer or judge.

There is no separate law in Texas for hate crimes. Instead, they make use of the Texas Hate Offenses Act to make some offenses more punishable. Murder, assault, sexual assault, making threats, starting fires, causing property damage, and graffiti are some instances of these crimes. Article 42.014 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure contains this law.

Hate Crime VS. Hate Incident

A hate incident is kind of like a hate crime because both are driven by prejudice. However, there’s a significant distinction: a hate incident may not necessarily violate the law.

Some things that are offensive and stir things up aren’t against the law and are fine under the First Amendment, which protects free speech. For instance, if someone hands out flyers with hurtful words about a group of people because of their race or religion, it’s called a hate incident (not a crime) because no actual law has been broken.

When does a crime turn into a Hate Crime in Texas?

In Texas, it is declared when investigators discover that a crime against a person, arson, graffiti, or property damage was motivated by hatred or prejudice. It occurs when any crime occurs because of “prejudice, hatred, or promoting violence.” To be considered a hate crime, there must be clear evidence that the person committed the crime because they hated or had prejudice against the victim based on their identity.

Enhance Punishment Explained

The way they handle this type of crime is a bit unique. Not all crimes can be called hate crimes, only certain ones involving a person, graffiti, arson, or property damage.

When you’re charged with a hate crime, the original charges you faced get bumped up to a more serious level. For instance, if your initial crime was a class A misdemeanor, it’ll be raised to a state jail felony. Here’s how Texas ranks crimes from least to most serious:

  • Misdemeanor of Class C
  • Misdemeanor of Class B
  • Misdemeanor of Class A
  • Felony at State Jail level
  • Felony of the Third Degree
  • Felony of the Second Degree
  • Felony of the First Degree

Even the least severe, class C misdemeanors, can lead to a fine of up to $500. Class B misdemeanors increased up to 180 days in jail and fines up to $2,000. And these penalties get steeper as your offense becomes more serious.

Federal Hate Crime Punishment

If the federal government decides to take on a case, there are serious consequences if the defendant is found guilty. If someone commits a hate crime and hurts or tries to hurt someone because of their race, sexuality, disability, gender, ethnicity, or religion, they can go to federal prison for up to 10 years and have to pay fines.

The defendant might face life in prison if the crime resulted in death, attempted murder, kidnapping, serious sexual abuse, or an attempt at severe sexual abuse.

Accusations of this crime, especially in federal court, are very grave. It could mean spending many years in federal prison, so it’s crucial to fully understand the charges against you and the potential penalties if you’re found guilty.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

If you’re facing charges that could be seen as a hate crime, it’s important to handle the situation carefully. The legal experts at Texas Criminal Defense Group are ready to provide you with the strongest defense possible. We’re here to fight for your rights and help you with any criminal charges you’re facing. We’re proud to serve the people of Texas.