When Does a Crime Become a Hate Crime in Texas?
Reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicate that more hate crimes were reported in a recent year than had occurred in any of the past ten years. Distinguishing a hate crime from other types of offenses is important, as the penalties for a crime can increase substantially based on allegations of hate-related motivations. If you are facing charges of a hate crime, you need an aggressive and determined criminal defense lawyer handling your case.
Hate Crimes in Texas
Texas, like other states, has laws that define when an offense becomes a hate crime. Hate crimes are committed based on bias toward one or more protected characteristics, such as:
- Race, ethnicity, or ancestry
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or non-conformity
- Sex or gender
Many offenses can be rooted in hate against one of the above characteristics, and some of the more common hate crimes involve:
- Simple assault or aggravated assault
- Property vandalism or destruction
- Robbery or burglary
What is the Importance of Hate Crime Specifications?
It is important to address when a criminal charge involves allegations of bias, as the penalties for hate crimes can be significantly harsher than for the underlying crime. Specifically, a criminal charge can be increased by one degree if the prosecutor alleges bias as the motivation for the offense. For example, if you are charged with a Class C misdemeanor offense with hate crime status, it can be elevated to a Class B misdemeanor for charges and possible penalties.
This can be a serious matter, as the difference between degrees can be significant. A third-degree felony charge can increase to a second-degree felony charge, which increases the maximum sentence from ten to 20 years in state prison. If a second-degree felony is enhanced to a first-degree felony based on hate crime allegations, which increases the possible prison sentence from 20 years to 99 years (or life in prison).
It is important to have a defense lawyer who knows how to challenge hate crime accusations. The prosecutor might have little concrete evidence of your alleged bias, so there is always the opportunity to defend against hate crime charges. You want to be working with a lawyer who will build the strongest possible defense strategy for your case.
Speak with a Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately
At the Law Office of Kyle Whitaker, we know that many hate crime allegations are false, and defendants should never face harsher charges or penalties when they did not commit a crime based on bias. We review the allegations against you and work to provide evidence to challenge hate crime accusations.
Contact us for a consultation as soon as you can after you are arrested. It is never wise to speak to the police, even if you think you can defend yourself. Instead, invoke your right to remain silent and call a defense attorney in Fort Worth to start defending your rights as soon as possible.