Kansas City Criminal Defense Lawyers
What is a Hate Crime?

What is a Hate Crime?

Hate crimes or bias-motivated crimes are criminal offenses motivated by prejudice because the victim is a member of a certain group. Today, 45 states—including Kansas and Missouri—and the District of Columbia have laws against hate crimes.

Hate crimes are committed against an individual based on the victim’s:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Age

In general, the following are three kinds of laws which criminalize hate crimes:

  • Laws which protect individuals based on their membership of a certain group – It is a crime to threaten or use violence against people who belong to a protected class. In Missouri, a person who commits the offense of an unlawful use of weapons motivated due to race, color, religion, etc. is considered a Class C felony, punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Laws which protect targeted institutions – There are laws that prohibit institutional vandalism, such as defacing a church, synagogue, or mosque. In Missouri, first-degree property damage to an institutional target is considered a class C felony.
  • Laws which add punishment to hate crimes – Defendants charged with hate crimes may encounter sentencing enhancements that impose aggravated punishment. For example, Kansas has enhanced sentencing for such crimes, enabling judges to level stiffer penalties.

However, not every crime committed against a protected individual is considered a hate crime—only if it is committed due to the victim’s race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. For instance, what if a couple of teenagers vandalize a convenient store owned by a Korean family. If there is no evidence that the victim’s race was the main motivation for the offense, then the act of vandalism is not a hate crime. By contrast, if the teens intentionally defaced the store due to Korean ownership, then it is a hate crime.

To be convicted of such an offense, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the crime due to the victim’s background or identity. However, it can be difficult to prove intent.

If you have been accused or arrested for a hate crime in Kansas or Missouri, request a free consultation with our Kansas City criminal defense attorney at Rokusek Stein Law, LLC today.

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