According to federal law and Pennsylvania state law, a hate crime is one that goes above and beyond merely being intolerant or disapproving of someone or something. Instead, a hate crime is one that is driven by bias or prejudice, such as racism, sexism, or homophobia. In fact, the Pennsylvania legislature is updating the law to include crimes against sexual orientation.
In addition, the act must also be criminal, meaning an act that is against the law. Often, hate crimes include arson, assault, destruction of property, fire bombing, harassment, stalking, threats, trespassing, and vandalism.
Consequently, a crime can become a hate crime if it is motivated by this bias or hatred. If someone is found guilty of a hate crime, rather than just the criminal act on its own, the punishment is much more severe. This is why a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can help.
Obviously, these crimes must be taken very seriously, and they can cause a lot of tension and problems within a community. These types of crimes often generate a lot of media attention. However, police must be careful to only arrest when the law is actually broken, not based on rumors or perceived or misinterpreted threats.
Hate crimes should be reported, whether by a witness to a hate crime or a victim of such a crime. These cases are often handled by a particular police unit — for example, in Philadelphia, the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Unit (CPR) [ http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/faq_HateCrime.html] responds to these types of cases. Police will then arrive on the scene and take down a police report, gather witness statements, and interview the victims. In many cases, this information will help the police decide whether they need to pursue suspects and make an arrest.
What To Do If You Have Been Charged With a Hate Crime
If you have been arrested and charged with a hate crime, you are facing increasingly harsh punishment if you cannot successfully fight those charges. This is because hate crimes are treated differently under the law than other crimes. They can result in more serious punishments than the crime on its own, including longer prison sentences.
Contact us right away to speak to an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer to assist you with your case and help make sure that your case is handled properly. With so much at stake if you have been charged with a hate crime, you do not want to go through the hearings and the trial alone, so get in touch with one of our lawyers today.