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Maryland looks to expand penalties for hate crimes

Legislators in Maryland are taking a renewed interest in hate crimes. The state's House Judiciary Committee is even considering a bill that would redefine what would constitute a hate crime and what kind of penalties someone might face.

In particular, they're considering changing the law so that hanging a noose on someone's property or painting a swastika in order to harass, intimidate or threaten someone would be criminal acts. The Committee proposes to make such an act a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

Why is the House Judiciary Committee addressing these things? Because incidents like these are on the rise in the state. In recent months, propaganda for the Ku Klux Klan in numerous neighborhoods and swastikas were found painted on walls at both the University of Maryland-College Park and Goucher College. Nooses and racial slurs have also appeared in various areas as symbols of racial intimidation.

Even as the bill is moving forward toward becoming law, the state's governor has added additional funding in the budget to fight hate crimes. Another $5 million has been dedicated to increasing security around schools and places of worship.

As odd as it may seem, hanging a noose hasn't specifically been considered a hate crime under Maryland's laws. In 2017, a young man was acquitted of charges he committed a hate crime -- even though he admitted to hanging a noose at a school.

Essentially, it's smart to take notice of these kinds of changes in the law. What once might have been perceived as a joke in very poor taste or a juvenile prank, may soon be treated with utmost concern -- and result in serious legal penalties.

Hate crime charges are serious. If you have been charged with a hate crime, find an experienced defense attorney to assist you today.

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