Hate speech and hate crimes seem to be on the rise. Some believe it’s due to politics while others believe that social climates have been changing continually, leading way to more expressive forms of hatred. Regardless of why it’s been brought to the forefront, it’s important to know that hate crimes are against the law. Although some states do not have specific additional laws against it, Massachusetts laws against hate crimes do exist.

Federal Hate Crime Laws

At a federal level, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 allows for federal prosecution of crime committed on the bases of hate. There are certain activities that are specifically protected: voting, schooling, use of public facilities, employment applications, and jury duty. It is important to distinguish between acts of free speech versus acts of hatred. In fact, the U. S. Supreme Court has heard cases with these opposing arguments.

Massachusetts Laws Against Hate Crimes

Massachusetts laws specifically define hate crimes as:

”Hate crime”, any criminal act coupled with overt actions motivated by bigotry and bias including, but not limited to, a threatened, attempted or completed overt act motivated at least in part by racial, religious, ethnic, handicap, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation prejudice, or which otherwise deprives another person of his constitutional rights by threats, intimidation or coercion, or which seek to interfere with or disrupt a person’s exercise of constitutional rights through harassment or intimidation. Hate crime shall also include, but not be limited to, acts that constitute violations of sections thirty-seven and thirty-nine of chapter two hundred and sixty-five, section one hundred and twenty-seven A of chapter two hundred and sixty-six and chapter two hundred and seventy-two.

Types of Hate Crimes and Penalties

Hate crimes can be just about any type of typical crime, but simply with an added motivation of the victim belonging to a protected group/class. Normally, there are three elements to hate crimes:

  1. Criminal Offense
  2. Intent
  3. Victim’s Protected Group/Class

Penalties will vary depending on the crime itself. Offender’s can be charged with a federal crime and/or have a civil case brought against them by victims (under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act).

Representation for Hate Crimes

If you have been accused of committing a hate crime or are a victim of one, it would be wise to seek legal advice. Hate crimes are a complex matter. Many facts will be considered and may help or hurt your case. Know your rights so that you can best protect them. Contact the attorneys at Martino Law Group for a free consultation.