Minnesota Hate Crime Defense Lawyer
When a crime is committed in Minnesota, there are several factors that can change the severity of the sentencing. If the perpetrator violates a restraining order against the victim, for example, or breaks a weapons law, there are additional penalties that are added to the sentence. One of the factors that adds to a sentence, both in jail time and in fines, is if the crime is a hate or bias crime.
What is a Hate Crime?
A hate or bias crime is one in which the victim is selected due to a factor which is protected under federal civil rights laws. These can include belonging to a group or the belief that the victim belongs to a group that is targeted. These civil rights protections include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, ethnicity, race, country of origin, religious affiliation, and other federal protected classes. These people are protected under federal civil rights laws because of a long history of being victims of hate crimes, many of which can be extremely violent, and a long history of being victims of civil rights violations.
Hate crimes can be prosecuted as both federal and state laws. When the federal government becomes involved, the FBI investigates and brings charges for federal civil rights violations. Americans, regardless of state of residency, are expected to abide by federal laws in addition to their state laws. So people living in Minnesota are expected to follow federal laws, as citizens of the United States, and Minnesota laws, as residents of the state of Minnesota.
Minnesota does not have a specific hate or bias law, but uses the presence of hate or bias in the crime, or in victim selection, to determine sentencing severity. The federal government does have specific hate or bias crimes, as a separate crime in addition to the type of violence, and that crime will be adjudicated in federal courts.
What Determines a Hate Crime?
Hate can be determined by several factors when a crime is being investigated. Things said during the crime, names a victim is called, writings or symbols on clothing, writings or symbols left at the scene of a crime can all suggest hate as a factor. Some types of threat have become symbolic of hate crimes, such as a noose or rope suggestive of the history of lynchings of African-Americans in the Jim Crow south, or swastikas on Jewish synagogues.
The SPLC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a legal aid and advocacy group that tracks hate groups and hate crimes in America. There are currently 954 hate groups in America being tracked, with 12 in Minnesota. Belonging to a group listed as a hate group can be further evidence that hate was a motivating factor in victim selection.
Hate Crimes are Rising in America
The FBI reports that incidents of hate crimes in America are rising, and rising in both violence and lethality. Advocates are concerned that federal reporting under-represents the rising tide of hate crimes because there is no standard for identifying and reporting hate crimes from various localities and states. The types of crimes the FBI tracks as having a hate or bias component, or as hate crimes, include intimidation, assault, aggravated assault, rape, murder, and human trafficking. The greatest lethality is directed against LGBT people, Jewish people, and people of color.
In Minnesota, the rate of hate crimes is rising more than the national average, with an estimated 22% rise over 2016. This is with several cases of violent crimes being charged in federal court as hate crimes not being reported as state statistics. The most common hate crimes involve those with a bias toward people of color or ethnicity, religion, especially antisemitism, and sexual orientation.
The number for 2017 is 146 hate crimes in Minnesota; this is with a reported 11% of reporting agencies filing a report on hate crimes to the FBI. No gender-based violence was reported as hate crimes to the FBI.
Missing Native Women in Minnesota
The under-reporting of gender-based violent crime in Minnesota is particularly disturbing in light of the recent reports of missing Native American women. With jurisdictional issues, no one is looking or tracking reports of violence against women who live on Federal reservation lands. There is a proposed Minnesota legislation that is attempting to address the discrepancy between reported hate-based violence toward women, especially Native women, and the poor performance by reporting agencies to investigate, track, and report hate crimes against women in Minnesota.
Native American women as a group have one of the highest rates of murder, sexual assault, and domestic abuse in the country. Anecdotal reports of missing women, and understaffed reservation police unable to properly investigate, have been accumulating. There is no government database at this time tracking missing Native women. Volunteers attempting to begin database work currently have 2,700 names of missing women.
The Protect and Serve Act
The federal law called the Protect and Serve act has been passed by the House of Representatives and has been referred to the US Senate. This law would include law enforcement officers in protected groups at risk of hate crimes, and would make it illegal to knowingly cause injury to, or attempt to cause injury, to a person perceived as a law enforcement officer. The ACLU and 44 other advocacy and government groups opposed the addition of law enforcement officers as protected minorities under current federal hate legislation, as their safety is protected already by a number of federal laws. They also do not, as a group, have a long history of discrimination and victimization, as do the other protected groups. However, it appears that this proposal has enough support to pass into law.
The impact of adding assault on a police officer as a hate crime, in addition to current crimes involving violence toward police officers in the line of duty, can be significant for sentencing.
Have you been a victim of a hate crime, or have you not had a hate crime reported or investigated properly? Consider consulting an attorney for support and assistance in planning legal actions.
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DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.