Hate crimes have been a recent incident in the present day. When we conjure of the term hate crimes, it is not hard to relate them to the atrocities in the last world war or even in recent conflicts of the past years. But the term hate crimes are not found in the history books as a forgettable time in human existence. They exist today, as people continue to inflict harm on other just because they are of a different skin color, religious background, gender orientation, life practices and other variations “normal” society tends to attach to the “other” people.
Hate Crimes: What is it?
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), hate crimes, or bias crimes, can be defined as the criminal acts done to a person, public or private property or to society that is driven by the perpetrator’s prejudice against the victims’ race, religious background, sexual preferences or national or ethnic origin (Religious Tolerance, 2007). By state law, hate crimes are those that involve the criminal actions against people by threatening, harassing or doing physical violence that is again motivated by the felon’s bias against another person or group’s religious beliefs, the color of their skin, ethnic origin, and physical or mental handicaps (US Legal, 2008). These laws as well as the definitions will differ from state to state (US Legal, 2008).
The acts that can be considered as would fall under the ambit of the term hate crimes can include the following criminal offenses (US Legal, 2008). These offenses such acts as harassment, threats of the use of terrorist methods, assault, and property crimes such as trespassing, mischievous acts and arson (US Legal, 2008). Hate crimes would also include acts of vandalism such as damaging or destruction of places of worship- churches, synagogues- cemeteries, mortuaries, statues or memorial figures, learning institutions, community facilities, and penal facilities for the youth and the immediate areas of these establishments (US Legal, 2008).
The present definition of hate crime is that the offender or perpetrator of the crime is impelled by the prejudice against the individual’s or group’s race, disability or national origin (US Legal, 2008). This ambit is only active when the victim is at school, work, or attending other “protected” activities (US Legal, 2008). Another way of defining hate crime is under Public Law #103-322A, enacted in 1994, by which the defining is given a more definitive scope, that the offender seeks out the victim, or in cases of crimes against property, the specific property that the criminal wishes to destroy or vandalize (Religious Tolerance, 2007).
It must be noted however that crimes against a person by virtue of his or her sexual preference -if the victim is a heterosexual, homosexual or a bisexual-can already be legally categorized as hate crimes (Religious Tolerance, 2007).
Some other definition of hate crimes
Apart from the FBI and state definitions of hate crimes, other organizations have proffered their own definitions of hate crimes. In the 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act, the term hate crime is put forth as criminal offenses that show evidence of the bias against the person’s race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs (Religious Tolerance, 2007). These crimes would include murder, rape, assault, arson and other crimes against property such as vandalism, destruction and damage to property (Religious Tolerance, 2007). The Bureau of Justice Administration (1997) defines hate crimes as offenses driven by the perpetrators’ hatred against one’s race, sexual origin and ethnicity among other factors (Religious Tolerance, 2007).
It is important to note that all crimes produce tragic and painful results for its victims, but it cannot be said that all criminal acts are done in hate (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2007). The occurrence of a hate crime is when the perpetrator wilfully on the basis of what the victims appears to be (NCTE, 2007). The word more apt to the term is perception (Religious Tolerance, 2007). It is this perception that most heinous and vicious criminal offenses are falsely established, and in most cases result in the belief that the victim is a target of hate crimes (Religious Tolerance, 2007).
Hate Crime Data
Hate crimes tend to be more barbarous and inhumane, with the intent of dehumanizing and attacking the person of the individual (NCTE, 2007). In research studies done by the FBI, about 30 percent of hate crimes were on property (American Psychological Association, 2007). These offenses cover robbery, vandalizing, destruction, and Burning establishments such as schools, churches, residences and business concerns (APA, 2007). The remaining 70 percent of the hate crime statistics were crimes against persons (APA, 2007). They would range from simple assault to aggravated assault, murder and rape (APA, 2007).
Hate crime laws
One of the states that have enacted hate crime laws is Wisconsin. The law, 943.012, states that an individual who deliberately will damage any worship place by marking or drawing by the use of ink or any other drawing implement or etches anything on the physical establishment of another person without obtaining consent of the owner is liable for the commission of a hate crime (Wisconsin Legislature). It is deemed a hate crime if the marking or drawing is made on any of the following places (Wisconsin). The application of hate crimes is deemed to operate if the building is used primarily for worship activities, a school or learning facility, a place for the dead such as mortuaries and cemeteries, or if the place has a significant impact and value to a group or particular individual’s race, religious background, handicap or disability or ethnic background (Wisconsin).
Another state, Florida, has enacted state law 46, chapter 775, which classifies an offense into a hate crime if the offense is done in a manner that substantiates the display of prejudice of the assailant against the victim’s racial background, nationality, sexual preferences, or skin color (The Florida Legislature, 2008). An offense can also be re-categorized as a hate crime if the crime is done on a senior citizen (Florida, 2008). The Florida hate crimes law went up before the state Supreme Court, where the state won 5-2 (Office of Attorney General Robert Butterworth, 1994). In the ruling, the state High Court ruled that Florida’s hate crimes statutes do not infringe on the individual’s free speech rights (Butterworth, 1994).
Nevada possesses hate crime statutes that covers an individual’s actual or felt sexual orientation (Human Rights Campaign, 2008). But the state has yet to address the issue of gender identity in the parts or chapters of the law (Human Rights Campaign, 2008). NRS 207.185 specifically addresses the issue of hate crimes as it relates to its commission (Nevada State Legislature). The crimes penalizes any person that commits an offense against another solely on the virtue of a person’s race, physical or mental capabilities, national origin or ethnic background, religious beliefs or sexual preferences (Nevada).
Nevada also recognizes that additional punishment for the offender must be meted out on top of the punishment the criminal will incur for another attendant crime (Nevada). NRS 193.1675 of the Nevada Penal Code states a person, already found guilty of another offense against the victim, shall incur an additional one year penalty which can be raised to 20 years (Nevada). This is aside from the penalty that the offender was sentenced to for the other offense (Nevada). The imposition of the additional sentence will depend on a variety of factors to be deliberated upon, such as the offender’s criminal history, the facts of the offense and the impact on the victim of the crime (Nevada).
Who commits hate crimes?
Many of the images that society currently pictures those that commit hate crimes as followers of the “neo-Nazis” or “skin heads” (APA, 2008). But research bore out that only a very small amount were actually committed by this group (APA, 2008). The reason is that people, unless drunk or on illegal drugs, don’t tend to see the differences unless under the influence of the two (APA, 2008). The main reason for the commission of hate crimes points a personal bias of the individual towards another (APA, 2008). Some research has seen that some individuals believe that they are in the right when it concerns violence towards others (APA, 2008).
Whether right or wrong, hate crimes are wrong from the very term that defines it, which is hate. People do think differently of other people, but that does not and never will, grant a license to some elements in society to act in a way that is harmful to another. Rather than try and destroy, we should try to understand the differences that we all possess, for that is what enriches a society. Or else, those that do these crimes will be themselves victims of hate crimes, because they are different to others as well.
American Psychology Association. (2008). Hate crimes today: an age-old foe in modern dress. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from
Butterworth, R.A. (1994). Hate crimes in Florida. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from
Florida State Legislature. (2008). Statutes and Constitution. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from
http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm? App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=Ch0775/SEC085.HTM&Title=- %3E2006-%3ECh0775-%3ESection%20085#0775.085
Human Rights Campaign. (2007). Nevada hate crimes law. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from http://www.hrc.org/1284.htm
National Center for Transgender Equality. (2007). Home page. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from http://www.nctequality.org/hatecrimes.html
Nevada State Legislature. (n.d.). NRS chapter 193-general provisions. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from http://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-193.html#NRS193Sec1675
Partners against Hate. (2003). List of hate crimes. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from
Religious Tolerance. (2007). Hate crime legislation: definitions and existing laws. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_hat3.htm
US Legal. (2008). Hate crime law and definition. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from
Wisconsin Legislature. (n.d.). States law on hate crime: vandalism. Retrieved September 4, 2008, from