hate crimes :: hate is a global issue
|Hate crime legislation: A new phenomenon|
by Ryan Wilder
While hate crimes are not a new phenomenon, laws punishing those who commit them are.
The Anti-Defamation League, originally developed in 1913 to combat discrimination of Jews, drafted model hate crime legislation 1981. Today, 43 states and the District of Columbia have laws based on ADL's model.
In Wisconsin, legislators have enacted a statute that enhances penalties for crimes identified as hate crimes. If an offender selected their target (person or property) because of a "belief or perception regarding race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry," they can be punished more severely than others who commit the same crime.
The statute was unanimously upheld in Wisconsin v. Mitchell in 1993.
In the case, a young black man was found to have incited a group of black males to kill a white male after watching the movie "Mississippi Burning." While the defendant argued that his bigoted speech was protected by the First Amendment, the court ruled that using speech to prove motive or intent was valid.
The Mitchell case set a precedent against challenging penalty enhancement statutes. No case with enhanced penalties due to hate crime has been overturned to date. Since the 1993 ruling, many states have adopted penalty enhancement laws similar to Wisconsin's.
In November 1995, the U.S. Sentencing Commission enacted the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, raising penalties "three offense levels," for hate crimes. This act serves as the federal counterpart to state sentencing enhancement laws.
The ADL also works with law enforcement by offering rewards to individuals who come forward with information leading to arrests and convictions of hate crime offenders. Even when no arrest is made, rewards help to focus public attention on hate crimes.
The Hate Crime Statistics Act (1990), and the subsequent Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994), helped provide researchers and legislators with information on the motivations and causes of hate crimes. These statues put the FBI in charge of compiling hate crime statistics.
Studies have also shown that victims are more likely to report hate crimes if they know a special reporting system exists.