In response to a rise in hate crime, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it will award more than $21 million to state, local, and tribal agencies to improve how the agencies investigate and prosecute hate crimes. Grants will also be used to assist hate crime victims. The announcement came on the 12th anniversary of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man in Laramie, Wyoming, was beaten, tortured, and left to die. His killers are currently serving two life sentences. James Byrd Jr., a black man in Jasper, Texas, was tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to his death. Two of the murderers have been executed. Both crimes occurred in 1998.
“Hate crimes instill fear across entire communities. They have profoundly negative and unacceptable effects on our society,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta in a statement. “The department is committed to using all tools at our disposal to combat unlawful acts of hate. These awards will provide state, local and tribal agencies additional support and critical resources to address hate crimes and their far-reaching effects.”
How Will the Grants Be Divided and Used?
The $21 million will be divided into several different programs:
- $8.4 million: Awarded for site-based training and technical assistance to combat hate crimes
- $1.5 million: Awarded to agencies to help solve cold case civil rights murders occurring before Dec. 31, 1979
- 1.8 million: Awarded to communities for training and technical assistance to resolve cold cases
- $2 million: Awarded to individuals and communities victimized by hate crimes
- $7.5 million: Will be used toward research to better understand and combat domestic radicalization and terrorism
The grants will be administered by Office of Justice programs through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the National Institute of Justice.
What Is a Hate Crime?
A hate crime is any crime that is motivated by bias. The bias can be based on color, race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was the first federal law that dealt with hate crimes. The law protected people against attacks related to their race, religion, or national origin. Crimes perpetrated because of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability was not classified as a hate crime until 2009. Bias does not have to be the only motivation for a crime to be designated a hate crime.
Recent Rise in Hate Crime
The overall number of hate crimes in 2020 is the highest level in 12 years, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, signed by President George H.W. Bush, requires the U.S. attorney general to report hate crimes annually. Hate Crime data for the nation are derived from National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and Summary Reporting System (SRS) reports voluntarily submitted to the FBI.
According to the most recent statistics for 2020, there were 8,052 single-bias incidents and 11,126 victims in the U.S. There were also 211 multiple-bias hate crimes involving 346 victims. The 2020 FBI Hate Crime statistics for the nation are based on data received from 15,138 of 18,625 law enforcement agencies in the country that year.
The 2020 hate crimes are categorized as the following (due to rounding, percentage breakdowns may not add to 100%):
- 61.8% of victims were targeted because of race/ethnicity/ancestral bias
- 20% were motivated by sexual-orientation bias
- 13.3% were targeted because of their religion
- 2.7% were victimized because of gender-identity bias
- 1.4% of the crimes were motivated by disability bias
- 0.7% were victimized because of their gender.
According to the FBI data, California reported 1,537 hate crimes in 2020, a 31% increase over the previous year. Most crimes were motivated by biases against either race/ethnicity or sexual orientation.
California hate crimes were categorized under the following underlying crimes:
- Destruction/Damage/Vandalism (399)
- Simple Assault (362)
- Intimidation (358)
- Aggravated Assault (331)
- Robbery (49)
Most crimes (1054) were crimes against persons, followed by crimes against property (483). There were no reported crimes against society.
Defending the Accused in Hate Crimes
California defines hate crimes in Penal Code Section 422.55. In California, a crime motivated by a bias is a standalone crime that can bring enhanced sentences and penalties for an underlying misdemeanor or felony. Depending on the crime, one to three additional years in prison are added to the sentence. Criminal fines can range from $5,000 to $10,000. The accused can also be sued in civil court to pay for damages to the victim and/or property injured.
At Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC, we believe strongly in everyone’s right to strong, effective legal counsel – including those accused of a hate crime. Since the intention is difficult to prove, someone can be wrongly accused of a hate crime.
If you are accused of a hate crime, contact our legal team as soon as possible. We take a collaborative approach to our cases so you can benefit from our extensive trial experience and knowledge of three former prosecutors.
Speak with one of our experienced lawyers at Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC to evaluate your defense options. We are available around the clock at (949) 251-0330. You also can contact us through our online form. The initial consultation is always free.