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What is a hate crime?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a hate crime is defined as a criminal offense such as murder or arson that is committed with an added underlying motivation that is fueled by bias.

The U.S. Congress has dubbed the official definition of a hate crime as being a criminal offense that is perpetrated against either a person or their property, that is motivated wholly or partially by the perpetrator's bias against either a race, religion or ethnic origin. The bias can also be against people with a disability or because of a person's sexual orientation. It is important for our Tennessee residents to understand that hate in and of itself is not a crime.

Technically, a hate crime is not a federal offense, but the federal government can and often does investigate and prosecute crimes fueled by bias. For the most part, most hate crimes cases tend to be prosecuted by the local and state authorities, though a federal law passed in 1994 significantly increased all penalties for any offenses that are successfully proven to be hate crimes.

Federal criminal civil rights laws were significantly expanded in 2009 when Congress passed a law that granted the federal government the authority to fully prosecute hate crimes of a violent nature. This includes any violence whether it was committed or attempted, against any member of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, as well as the transgender community.

Hate crimes are a serious matter with long-term consequences for those facing such charges. Federal prosecutors will aggressively prosecute such crimes, and thus it is important for those facing hate crime charges to have an equally aggressive and competent attorney to protect their rights.

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Hate Crime - Overview," Accessed Sept. 7, 2015

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