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What's considered a federal hate crime?

A hate crime occurs in the United States as frequently as once an hour. Every 60 minutes, an individual or group commits a crime against someone simply because the perpetrator has prejudice toward the victim. The individuals often victimized by these crimes are those who appear to have a certain sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, mental or physical capacity or religion.

Individuals in these demographic groups often live in fear of visiting certain regions of the country or even places in their own communities because they're afraid that someone will harm them.

People that perceived as members of these populations have been kidnapped, tortured, incapacitated, mutilated, burned or even killed during the commission of the hate crimes.

The federal government first implemented hate crime laws in the United States in 1968 at the height of the civil rights era. At the time, hate crimes legislation was intended to protect individuals from ill-treatment or from being precluded from participating in civic activities like voting.

Before the civil rights movement, it was common for minorities to be mistreated simply because of race or national origin. In recent years,Hate Crime Prevention Act legislation emerged to expand protections for gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

Before the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act in 2009, a national Gallup poll rolled out in 2007 captured a change in sentiments among the American people.

At that time, nearly 70 percent of all Americans polled reported being in favor of expanding the scope of hate crimes laws to cover sexual orientation. Among those who responded, more than 55 percent of conservatives, e.g., evangelical Christians and Republicans, approved the bill.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, nearly 90,000 cases of hate crimes have been reported since the most recent version of the hate crimes bill was proposed. Of those, nearly 14,000 have reportedly involved some type of ill-treatment related to sexual orientation.

If you've been accused of committing a hate crime, building a formidable defense from the outset is paramount.

Source: Human Rights Campaign, "Hate crimes law," accessed Oct. 19, 2017

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