New York is known for its rich cultural diversity which is why the state’s legal system takes a harsh stance on punishing hate crime offenders. If an offense is deemed a hate crime, the grading of the criminal act can rise by a full level. This means that a misdemeanor can quickly become a felony and years can be added to your sentence. With the stakes so high, you need the assistance of an experienced attorney to help you navigate these charges.
What is considered a hate crime in New York?
The state’s definition of hate crimes is outlined in New York Penal Law §485.05. Under this statute, a hate crime is any criminal act where the victim is targeted because of bias or prejudice. These crimes are intentionally committed against a victim because of their national origin, race, color religion, ancestry, sexual orientation, age or disability. Due to the potential threat posed by hate crime perpetrators, New York State is especially aggressive in punishing hate crimes.
Examples of Punishable Hate Crimes in NY State
- Criminal trespass
- Sexual abuse
Possible Defenses for Hate Crimes
In order to get a conviction, a prosecutor must not only be able to prove that a crime was committed but must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was motivated by hate or bias. For example, a defendant may be convicted of kidnapping, but a prosecutor may not be able to prove that the kidnapping was related to the victim’s status. In most cases, the prosecution will only seek a hate crime charge when there is strong evidence indicating that there was bias towards the victim.
How does New York punish hate crime offenders?
Federal penalties for hate crimes are outlined in 38 U.S. Code Section 249. This statute imposes harsh penalties for the act of willfully causing or attempting to cause bodily harm to a victim through the use of a dangerous weapon, fire or explosive device in a crime that was motivated by the victim’s color, religion, race, national origin, disability status, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. If convicted of a hate crime, the prosecution may be permitted to seek a punishment one degree higher than the crime charged.
With the exception of drug charges, the state may impose fines of up to $5,000 or double the amount gained from the offense – whichever is deemed to be larger. However, the prison terms for felonies may differ by category:
Class E Felony – Up to 4 years
Class D Felony – Up to 7 years
Class C Felony – Up to 15 years
Class B Felony – Up to 25 years
Class A Felony – Potential life sentence
Although the minimum periods of incarceration are the same for both nonviolent and violent crimes, the minimum prison term is higher for violent offenses. For example, violent Class D felonies carry a minimum sentence of two years while a non-violent Class D offenses may result in probation without any prison time at all.
How can our New York Hate Crime Lawyers Help?
If you are facing hate crime charges in the state of New York, one of our experienced attorneys can help you build a compelling defense. Given the harsh penalties associated with hate crimes, you need a defense attorney that can present a persuasive argument in court. Failure to obtain a lawyer with experience litigating hate crimes may put your career and freedom in jeopardy. Give us a call today to see how we can help.