In the wake of the surge in hate crimes across Texas following the election of Donald Trump, one Texan recently discovered the hard way that this state takes a hard-line approach in the prevention of hate crimes.
The suspect was originally pulled over for a traffic violation. During the stop, law enforcement discovered two AK-47 rifles, an AR-15 rifle, a 9mm pistol and approximately 1,500 rounds of ammunition.
A Texas Traffic Stop Turns into Hate Crime Accusations
Law enforcement connected the man a Neo-Nazi group known to spread hate speech against the Jewish population. The extremist group also trains members in hand-to-hand combat and in the use of firearms.
Law enforcement took swift action in removing lethal weapons from someone they perceived as a potential threat to the community. Now the Texas man may face up to 10 years in federal prison.
What exactly constitutes a hate crime here in Texas?
Hate crimes are defined under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2009). Ordinary cimes become a hate crime if the criminal act was committed because of either perceived or actual color, race, religion, origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability of a person.
The Act was an expansion of a piece of legislation enacted by former Gov. Rick Perry in 2001 called the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act (or “Byrd Act” for short). That law broadly defined a hate crime as an offense that was “motivated by bias or prejudice.”
Today’s Texas Hate Crime Statistics
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the statistics of hate crimes within the past few years are as follows:
- 2015: 219
- 2016: 224
- 2017: 219
- 2018: 500
After a slight dip in totals for 2017, hate crimes have since ballooned.
From 2017 to 2018 the number of hate crimes committed in Texas more than doubled.
So what happens if you’re accused of a crime motivated by hate?
Find an experienced Texas defense lawyer because penalties are stiff.
Penalties Carried by a Texas Hate Crime Conviction
The inevitable consequence is to stiffer penalties.
Currently, anyone found guilty of having willfully caused harm or bodily harm to another person on the basis of hate may be sentenced to a prison term lasting from a few years to life and/or to pay hefty fines.
This sentencing applies to acts such as attempted or actual kidnapping, sexual abuse, and attempted murder. As you would expect, penalties are more stringent when a crime results in death.
An Experienced Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
For both the good and the bad, our current political climate has encouraged law enforcement to take up swift action against the commission of hate-motivated crimes.
At the same time, it can be a tough call on whether a crime has actually been committed due to such a subjective factor as “hate.”
More and more people are facing hate-related convictions, a serious warning that individuals with strident social views should be more careful than ever about the types of activities they engage in.
If you do find yourself facing this type of charge, an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances surrounding your case in order to offer the best guidance and to build a defense.