In a previous post, we began a discussion about classifying Pennsylvania crimes as hate crimes. A violent crime involving a Muslim taxi driver prompted a civil rights group to push for classifying that incident as a hate crime.
We shared what could alter the classification of a crime to a hate crime. This post will go a step further by explaining the types of crimes that could be labeled as hate crimes and what such a classification could mean in regards to sentencing.
It isn't just violent crimes like the shooting of a taxi driver that could be tried as hate crimes. Other offenses that can be considered hate crimes include harassment, criminal trespassing, destruction of property, arson, vandalism, stalking and more.
As the past post explains, the criminal act needs to be motivated by a perpetrator's bias or prejudice based on a victim's "real or perceived real or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, or ancestry." That basis of classification means all types of criminal charges could be elevated to hate crimes.
You might ask, "What if my charge is elevated to a hate crime? Does that make my case more serious?" Yes, the hate crime classification can impact the potential punishment if you are convicted of the charge. In Pennsylvania, if a criminal offense fits the definition of "ethnic intimidation" it can be classified one degree higher than the offense would be otherwise. That elevation could mean more incarceration time should you be convicted of the charge against you.
Someone who is charged with a crime that could be classified as a hate crime based on Pennsylvania laws of ethnic intimidation should work with a criminal defense lawyer who understands that aspect of the law and will fight to protect a defendant's best interests.