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What is a hate crime? The narrow legal definition makes it hard to charge and convict

This week we will be posting about hate crimes in the United States. Hate crimes are crimes motivated by bias on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity or other protected characteristic. Hate crime laws have been passed by 47 states and the federal government since the 1980s, when activists first began to press state legislatures to recognize the role of bias in violence against minority groups. Today, only Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming do not have hate crime laws.

In order to be charged as a hate crime, attacks –whether assault, killings or vandalism– must be directed at individuals because of the prohibited biases. Hate crimes, in other words, punish motive; the prosecutor must convince the judge or jury that the victim was targeted because of their protected characteristic. In Oregon, those include the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.

If the defendant is found to have acted with bias motivation—something that can be difficult to prove—hate crimes often add an additional penalty to the underlying charge.

Read the full article here.

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