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Hate Crimes

Elements Of Bias Crimes, How Bias Crimes Differ From Other Crimes, Scope Of The Problem

A hate crime is a crime committed as an act of prejudice against the person or property of a victim as a result of that victim's real or perceived membership in a particular group. Many of the most notorious hate crimes have been murders, such as the racially motivated murder of James Byrd, Jr., in Texas in 1998 or the homophobicmotivated murder of Matthew Shepard in North Dakota later that same year. The vast majority of hate crimes, however, are cases of assault or vandalism.

The critical identifying element of hate crimes is the bias motivation of the perpetrator. The distinguishing factor can be obscured by the very term hate crime, which is the popular term used in connection with bias-motivated violence. In fact, bias crime is a more accurate label. Many if not most crimes are motivated by hatred of one kind or another. Not every crime that is motivated by hatred for the victim is a bias crime. Hate-based violence causes a bias crime only when this hatred is connected with antipathy for a group, such as a racial or ethnic group, or for an individual because of membership in that group. In some form, virtually every state in the United States expressly criminalizes bias crimes.



"Penalty Enhancement for Hate Crimes." Criminal Justice Ethics 11 (1992): 3–63.

"Papers of a Symposium on Hate Crime Legislation: Hate Crimes—Propriety, Practicality and Constitutionality." Annual Survey of American Law 93 (1992): 483–636.


Apprendi v. New Jersey, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000).

Barclay v. Florida, 463 U.S. 939 (1983).

Dawson v. Delaware, 503 U.S. 159 (1992).

Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer, 392 U.S. 409 (1968).

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992).

Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160 (1976).

Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993).

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law