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Hate Crimes Surging throughout the USA and the Penalties in Wisconsin

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin defense attorney, Wisconsin criminal lawyer

Over the last year, hate crimes have increased dramatically across the country. Hate crimes against African American and Muslim Americans have risen by over 50% and have reached their highest numbers since 2001. Hate crimes against Hispanics have increased almost 40% during the same time period.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that in the month since the November 2016 election, it has documented 437 reports of hate-fueled intimidation and harassment through news reports, social media and direct submissions via the SPLC’s #ReportHate form. Most involved anti-immigrant, anti-black or anti-LGBT bigotry. The most frequent location was K-12 schools, followed by businesses and at universities.

What are the consequences of such actions? The following provides a brief overview.

What Is a Hate Crime?

The federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 defines hate crime as a criminal offense committed against another person because of their race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, gender, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Pub. L. No. 111-84. Wisconsin law provides a substantial sentence enhancer for hate crimes, sec. 939.645, Wis. Stats., and also provides for a civil damages cause of action for victims of hate crimes. Sec. 895.443, Wis. Stats. How does one know if a crime that was committed falls within the definition of a hate crime? Crimes committed against a person who is a minority or part of a frequently targeted group can potentially be labeled as a hate crime, even if the accused person may not have intended it to be. It will be up to the accused’s attorney to try and prove that the act was not committed as a hate crime under the applicable statutes, which can be quite challenging.

On the other hand, if a person has been the victim of a hate crime, he or she will want to know what their rights and options are, both in any criminal prosecution and potentially for a civil claim for damages for injuries or emotional distress. As such, those facing charges for a hate crime, as well as the victims of such, should be diligent in their choosing of an experienced attorney to act on their behalf.

Consequences of a Hate Crime

In Wisconsin, the designation of a crime as a hate crime adds a significant sentencing enhancer. This means that rather than being a completely separate crime, sec. 939.645 increases the penalty and potentially the classification of the charge. As an example, a Class A misdemeanor prosecuted as a hate crime will turn into a felony and the penalties will be significantly increased imprisonment and fines, or both. For a crime that is typically a felony, the hate crime enhancer is even stronger, exposing a defendant to an additional five years of imprisonment and increased fines.

Our Experienced Milwaukee Trial Lawyers Can Help

Despite common perception, not all crimes charged as hate crimes were committed because of criminal animus towards a person’s race, gender, or other identity. Our attorneys have dealt with these sensitive and explosive issues and the constitutional ramifications of such prosecutions. Avoid wrongful conviction with help from seasoned criminal defense attorneys who have handled these types of cases before, at both the state and federal level.

If you or members of your family have been the victim of a hate crime, you need a trial attorney who is well-versed in civil rights and constitutional law to effectively represent you and your interests and try to obtain damages if you have suffered injuries.

At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP, we understand the sensitive nature of hate crimes from both perspectives. Dedicated and experienced, we will aggressively advocate for your rights and pursue the most favorable outcome possible for your situation. If you are faced with a hate crime situation or prosecution, contact us and schedule a consultation with our experienced Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers and ask how we can help. Call (414) 271-1440 today.

 

Sources:

http://www.splccenter.org/hatewatch

http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/14/us/fbi-hate-crime-report-muslims/index.html

http://www.fbi.gov/hg/cid/civilrights/civilrts.htm

https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/939/IV/645

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