Salt Lake City Hate Crime Charges Defense Lawyer
The issue of hate crimes has been around for many years, but recently the topic has become an increasingly salient social issue. It is hard to pin down what a hate crime is because it often looks like other criminal offenses. The key to a hate crime is the intent of the defendant.
A hate crime is often motivated by the defendant’s perception of the alleged victim’s personal traits and character. Many crimes are motivated by race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or similar factors. If a particular offense is considered a hate crime, it might be subject to enhanced penalties.
Hate crimes come with criminal and social consequences. Not only do you face potential incarceration, but you also face social ostracization. Our Salt Lake City hate crime charges defense lawyers can help you fight your charges. Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 to get a free initial case evaluation.
What Makes a Crime a “Hate Crime” in Salt Lake City?
As mentioned above, a hate crime may look like any other standard criminal offense. The difference is that a hate crime is motivated by the defendant’s perception of the alleged victim and a desire to intimidate or cause distress to the victim. For example, the crime of assault could be considered a hate crime if it was motivated by the victim’s ethnicity and the plaintiff’s desire to cause the victim distress.
Hate crimes are usually motivated by the defendant’s perception of the victim as being a member of a particular class or group. There is no requirement that that perception be accurate for the crime to be charged as a hate crime. For example, a mistaken belief that a victim was Muslim when they were actually Sikh does not stop the crime from being a hate crime.
Hate crimes are often motivated by traits that the victim cannot control, such as their race, ethnicity, or country of origin. Broad classes might be protected under various state and federal hate crime laws, including religion, sexual orientation, gender, and disability.
Hate crimes are often tough to charge because motivation and intent are hard to prove. Defendants can challenge their charges on two fronts: whether a crime was committed and whether their motivation qualifies it as a hate crime.
Hate crimes often come with a severe social stigma. Defendants are sometimes assumed to be filled with hate long before ever being convicted. In fact, simply being accused might be enough to ruin someone’s reputation. Whether or not you have been officially charged, speak with our Salt Lake City hate crime charges defense lawyers for guidance if you are accused of a hate crime.
Penalties for Hate Crimes in Salt Lake City
The penalties for hate crimes will vary depending on the nature of the crime. As we now know, a hate crime may be, at its core, any other standard criminal offense. More serious offenses, like violent crimes against people, will come with harsher penalties than most offenses against property. However, all hate crimes – violent crimes and property crimes alike – often face penalty enhancements. Two statutes allow penalty enhancements of hate crimes.
The first statute is Utah Code § 76-3-203.3. This statute applies to primary misdemeanor offenses committed with the intent to terrorize or intimidate the victim. Primary offenses are listed within the statute and include assault, property destruction, criminal trespass, theft, and more. Under this law, Class C misdemeanors become Class B, and Class B misdemeanors become Class A. This law does not cover felony offenses.
A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail. Class B misdemeanors may be penalized with up to 6 months in jail. Finally, Class A misdemeanors can be punished with up to 364 days of jail time.
The second statute that allows penalty enhancements for hate crimes is Utah Code § 76-3-203.14. This law may cover both misdemeanor and felony offenses. This statute enhances penalties if a defendant is found to have targeted a victim based on one of the victim’s personal attributes, like age, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
Under this statute, misdemeanors are bumped up by one level, and Class A misdemeanors become third-degree felonies. If the crime is already a felony before the enhancement, the felony degree remains the same, but the mandatory minimum sentence increases. For example, the mandatory minimum for a third-degree felony, which is otherwise not specified, would be 1 year. Similarly, the minimum sentence for a second-degree felony would increase from 1 to 2 years.
For first-degree felonies, the penalties are not necessarily increased. Still, the judge may consider how the victim was targeted as part of the aggravating factors, thus possibly leading to harsher penalties. Talk to our Salt Lake City hate crime defense attorneys about fighting possible penalty enhancements.
Challenging Charges for Hate Crimes in Salt Lake City
The best way to fight your charges will depend on the specific details of your case. We can work to get the charges dropped or dismissed in some cases. Other times, dismissal might not be possible, but we can fight allegations that your offenses are hate crimes, and hopefully, avoid penalty enhancements.
If possible, we can present evidence that you did not commit the crime in question. Not only would this help you avoid penalty enhancements for hate crime charges, but you could avoid all penalties if the charges are dropped or dismissed. Even if you have an irrefutable alibi, you should speak with our Salt Lake City hate crime defense attorneys before speaking to law enforcement or prosecutors about dropping your charges.
If we cannot have your charges dropped, we can still fight penalty enhancements. These enhancements only apply in specific situations related to hate crimes. Even if you are still charged with a crime, we can fight allegations that you were motivated by a desire to intimidate or distress the victim because of a personal attribute.
Call Our Salt Lake City Hate Crime Charges Defense Attorneys Immediately
If you or someone close to you is charged with a hate crime, the consequences may be quite dire. Our Salt Lake City hate crime charges defense attorneys can assist you. Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 for a free case review.