Why Hate Crime laws are a really really bad idea

Because in essense they are saying that why a person is killed is the real crime, not the act of killing itself. That because someone is black or gay, not because they’re a human being, it is a crime to murder them. It gives preferential treatment to specific groups of people and says that it is a greater injustice to take their life.

The two rednecks that dragged that man to death were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Why? Because they killed a human being, not because they’re racists. Like it or not, in terms of thought and speech, the First Amendment absolutely protects someone’s right to be a bigot. Hate speech is absolutely covered under free speech. And, no, it is absolutely not worth limiting the First Amendment to try and prevent so-called hate crimes.

Murder is a crime. Assault is a crime. Vandelism is a crime. Murder, assault or vandelism aimed at minorities is not and should not be a worse crime.

I have to agree on this one. I’ve heard that there is a movement to add crimes against women to the list of hate crimes. So, eventually, we’ll be in a situation where if you kill a straight, white, male protestant, you effectivly get time off your sentence.

Why they killed is completely irrelevant? Well let’s round up all those 80-year-old WWII veterans and toss their butts in jail for killing all those foreign soldiers. We should also abolish the self-defense and insanity defenses, eliminate the manslaughter option, and set a single, standardized penalty for every person who intentionally kills another person.

I think you see where I’m going with this: motive matters, as several of us argued in this thread.

Suddenly I feel like Daffy Duck in that cartoon where he is trying to get rid of the “duck season” signs. White, hell, I’m a peckerwood, devoutly hetero, and raised Methodist to boot.

But to the point: the fundamental flaw with hate crimes legislation is its just plain bad law-writing. It assumes that a crime is worse due to the state of mind of the perpetrator. A state of mind cannot possibly be proven! It is an utter absurdity to pretend that it can.

And if state of mind worsens an offense, does it not, by the same token, lessen another offense? If a pro-life loony guns down a Planned Parenthood doctor, to save unborn children being his state of mind, has he committed a somehow lesser offense?

Bigotry consists of a set of unacceptable opinions, we cannot make a crime of that, therefore we cannot make that fact an aggrevating factor in the crime, any more than having a set of more acceptable opinions would deserve leniency.

I throw the full weight of my influence against it.

I think an underlying point to the OP was that all crimes of that nature are hate crimes.

My two cents? The whole ‘hate crime’ legislation/idea was enacted by the rich, white 5% who control everything to furthur enforce negative ethnic, racial, and sexual stereotypes - but i’m a sucker for a good conspiracy.

punk snot dead,

Can we read minds? Of course not. But the justice system already requires juries to determine state of mind every time somebody is tried. Did they intend the outcome that their actions produced (murder), or did they just not give a damn (manslaughter), or was it just a total accident (get out of jail free card)? State of mind can usually be implied by the facts and circumstances surrounding the crime.

No. In comparison to the hate crime, the other one lets the bad guy off easier. But as long as we’re talking about enhancing penalties (as does every hate crimes act I am aware of), the non-hate crime stays exactly the same as it ever was, neither lessened nor enhanced.

Hmm, so if a killer targets a victim because of his behavior, is that less reprehensible than a killer who just targets any old person whose ethnicity/sexuality/gender happens to piss him off? I’m going to have to go with “yes” on that question. Sure, it may not be that much worse, but assaulting somebody because of an immutable characteristic does seem worse to me than assaulting somebody because he looked at you funny.

But having an acceptable set of opinions does make a difference in sentencing, every day. Which cold-blooded killer deserves a worse sentence?

Killer #1: “In my opinion, all Lithuanians are the scum of the earth and should be exterminated.”

Killer #2: “In my opinion, that bigot who killed all my Lithuantian friends deserved to die.”

**Hail Ants **:“Hate speech is absolutely covered under free speech. And, no, it is absolutely not worth limiting the First Amendment to try and prevent so-called hate crimes.”

Hail, please explain to me exactly how hate crimes legislation imposes a limit on the First Amendment. I am all ears. Hint: the constitution does not protect your right to kill; and defining murder as “speech” is just a bit of a stretch.

Elucidator*"[Hate crimes legislation]assumes that a
crime is worse due to the state of mind of the perpetrator. A state of mind cannot possibly be proven! It is an utter
absurdity to pretend that it can."*

Say what? So you think the guys that beat and pratically crucified Matthew Shepherd didn’t choose him because he was gay? Or the guy last year who opened fire on a synagogue didn’t have anti-semitism on his mind? I’m sure, btw, that when there is plausible evidence to the contrary plain-old-garden-variety crucifiers and attempted massacrers won’t have to worry about the additional burden of hate crimes legislation.

As it happens, hate crimes legislation isn’t high on my list as I think we have a pretty punitive justice system without it. But I do find it interesting how threatened some (typically white, male, Christian and straight) people seem to be by the very concept. Here is Nimune (whose sex, race, etc. are unknown to me)

“So, eventually, we’ll be in a situation where if you kill a straight, white, male protestant, you effectivly get time off your sentence.”

Nimune, how seriously do you expect me to take this supposed eventuality? Surely you are aware that crimes perpetrated by blacks against whites are investigated, tried and punished more frequently and more rigorously than other crimes, particularly crimes by blacks on blacks.

Let me put it to you this way. If hate crimes legislation on the books deterred even one group of “rednecks” from targeting a gay or a black human being just to have some sick kicks, wouldn’t that be a good thing? And what would it really cost you unless, of course, you yourself plan to commit a hate crime in the future? If your answer is that you don’t like the preferential treatment, please take notice: our legal system is full of arbitrary disparities of all kinds. How else can you account for the fact that blacks are disproportionately incarcerated for the percentage of crimes they commit? How else can you explain the difference between the way that crimes committed by businesspeople, sometimes affecting hundreds of people or whole communities, are often punished less severely than petty theft?

I hadn’t realized that white, male Roman Catholics were a class of people protected by hate crime legislation. I mean, c’mon! The last time one was crucified was 2000 years ago!

As has been observed, a hate crime is a crime with a particular motivation. If a black man kills the above white, male protestant because Mr. white, male protestant was sleeping with Mr. black man’s wife, then no, he won’t get time off his sentence. Race isn’t part of the crime.

And I suspect that if white men were the only class left unprotected by hate-crime legislation, we’d be so far along that hate-crimes in general would act as sentence multipliers, regardless of the identity flags worn by the victim.

There’s more than the issue of the state of mind of the perpetrators here. There’s also the issue of deterrence.

For example, someone who kills a police officer is generally in for a tougher ride than someone who kills an accountant (e.g., more vigorous prosecution and harsher sentencing). One of the reasons for this (I always thought) was to protect police officers. They’re in a very dangerous profession, but hopefully any would-be criminal will know that if they do shoot a cop they’ll get no sympathy whatsoever from the courts.

I think a similar argument applies to hate crimes. Whether or not hate crimes are morally worse than plain old murders, the possible victims of hate crimes are in more danger. Someone in a synagogue is in more danger of being attacked by a skinhead than a plain old WASP like myself, to name one instance. So harsher or additional penalties for hate crimes serve in part to protect people who are at greater risk.

(I personally think a hate-motivated murder is morally worse, but I wanted to throw another issue into the pot.)

Hate crime laws do impose on free speech. Let’s say you hate Korean people for some reason. If you never say anything to anyone about how much you hate Koreans, if you assault one you will probably get a lesser sentence than if you make speeches about how evil Koreans are and have some anti-Korean web page.

Whenever they try to apply hate crime laws towards a particular crime, they have to come up with proof that the person has a particular hatred for a certain group. The way they do that is by finding evidence they have made their hatred known to others. A racist who never talks about his beliefs won’t get convicted on hate crime laws. Hate crime laws basically say ‘If you are prejudiced, keep your mouth shut about it, or you will potentially face tougher sentences in the future’.

Hate crime laws restrict freedom of speech in exactly the same way that the difference between first degree murder and manslaughter do: if I kill someone, and the police find no evidence that I planned it, I get manslaughter. If they find my drinking buddy with whom I discussed my plan to murder that person, I get first degree murder. It was my speech that made the difference, so I’d better not say anything about it, should I? Has my freedom of speech been restricted in a way that’s unreasonable?

In other words, it doesn’t. I can spout hatred against anyone; I can discuss the perfect crime. What’s criminal is carrying out the crime. That my speech is evidence of my state of mind isn’t a prior restraint on my speech unless I actually do it.

I agree 100% that motive does matter. If someone planned out a murder I find that to be worse then someone who did it in the heat of passion. And while I think it would be valid to bring up racism, or any other form of “hate”, as a factor in motivation I don’t think it warrants extra special punishment.


I personally think that hate crime legislation is, how should I say this, I guess I think it’s a good idea, but should maybe be different somehow (I don’t have a clue how they should change it though). Here’s why I think like this: I think we’re all pretty familiar with the James Byrd story (black man dragged to death because he was black), just ask yourself this question, would he have been murdered by those two men under that scenario if he wasn’t black? I personally don’t think those men would have killed him (so violently at that) if he was not black. So should they get a stiffer sentence because they did that? I personally think so.

Or this hypothetical (although it’s probably really happened), a group of skinheads goes out and beats up/kills a member of a minority. It’s pretty obvious that the beating was motivated by hate, so those guys shouldn’t get the same punishment as someone that killed someone in a random shooting.

Like hansel said, I also believe that the law says if a different race kills a white person, it is still considered a hate crime if it is determined that the murder/crime is racially motivated.

I don’t think that hate crime legislation intrudes on 1st amendment rights. I don’t think it’s protected under the first amendment to threaten people. You can say whatever you want about how you believe that you’re a member of the “master race,” but when you decide to kill people that are “inferior” to you, then you cross a line and you should receive a harsher (more harsh?) punishment.

In addition to some points that elucidator made:

I resent the implication that one life is worth more than another.

The upside of hate crimes is that they allow federal authorities to get involved in places where regional authorities might be reluctant to move forward - effectively quashing some of the good old boys network that might protect perpetrators. It also allows them to monitor groups (white supremacists, et al) and link them to specific crimes. This can be a good thing, but I don’t think it’s worth the long-term costs to the country.

I think hate crimes are a bad idea because they are divisive. They more less permanently codify one or more groups of people, based on race, sexual orientation (and now gender? :eek) as other, in the law of the land. What groups get protected? What groups are not? Where does it end?

To me, the long term goal is a society that is not divided by racial, sexual, or gender discriminations. Call me an idealist, but while liberals see hate crime laws as a step toward “inclusion” and “diversity”, I see them as a step away.

Third, I believe hate crime laws seek to prove something that is basically unprovable - state of mind. It adds an extra burden of proof onto prosecutors. Instead of proving facts - “The defendant assaulted the victim” the process is bogged down in proving state of mind, personal viewpoints, and prejudices.

Hate crimes are different than normal crimes. If a black man is lynched for, say, looking at someone the wrong way, that’s not just a merder crime against a black man. It’s a crime against all black people, because it strikes fear into their heart. The whole black community is the victim. That’s why the sentence is higher.

Avumede: By making it a “different” crime, you are saying that black people are different from other people.

Do we postpone trials while we poll every race and creed in the country to see how a particular violent crime affects their feelings? Violent crime strikes fear and disgust into nearly ALL human beings. Why differentiate? Lynchings are horrible and disgusting. What happened to Matthew Shepard is horrible and disgusting. Any violent crime against anyone is horrible and disgusting. The fact that people face discrimination due to skin color or sexual orientation is horrible and disgusting. By all means, discuss racially motivated crimes as the disgusting acts they are during the trial. But to develop a whole separate set of sentencing guidelines based on the groups that the victims belonged to just seems wrong to me.

Oh, and for those of you in this thread who talk about hate crime laws as a deterrent to hate crimes - evidence, please? I guess it would be hard to track “hate crimes” that occurred prior to the passage of the hate crime laws. However, if there is no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent to murderers, why should hate crimes laws be a deterrent to racist bastards?

I think there is a fundamental difference between discussing the details of a crime and stating a hatred of a group in general. The first case is providing evidence of the crime itself, a confession of premditated murder. Also, as you mentioned, it IS possible that the police could find evidence that you planned it, whether or not the drinking buddy comes forward. There is no way the police could find evidence that a crime was a ‘hate crime’ other than finding out that you had expressed your opinions.

You cannot defend yourself 100% from being convicted of premeditated murder by never discussing it. You CAN defend yourself 100% from being convicted of a hate crime by never saying anything about your beliefs. This is how hate crime legislation infringes on our right to free speech.

Hate crime laws can be abused as well. How can you be 100% certain that a crime was caused because of someone’s hatred of a group, even if there is evidence that they did hate the victims group? As an example, lets say that someone hates homosexuals. They give speeches on the evil of homosexuality, harass people at the funerals of AIDS victims, generally makes an ass of themselves and makes their beliefs public knowledge.

Then one day, this person is needing money for drugs or whatever, so they decide to mug someone for money. They wait in a dark alley and jump the first person who comes along, beating them up and taking their money. If this person turns out to be a homosexual, do you honestly believe the prosecution is not going to try and get this known homophobe on hate crimes laws instead of a simple robbery? Hate crimes demand that we guess the motives of a crime based solely on the stated beliefs of the perpetrator.

Usually when someone is murdered/killed it is because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, when that person is murdered/killed because of something they can’t change that seems extra wrong to me. If a white person walks by a building where a militant black group is meeting and they see him and decide to kill him because he’s white they should be punished extra (same goes if roles are reversed).

So do I, but that’s got nothing to do with the logic of hate crimes legislation. Let’s put it this way: $50 is worth $50 whether you steal from out of my pocket or you hold me up at gunpoint and demand that I surrender it to you. But if you are caught and found guilty of the second crime–armed robbery–you will be punished more severely than for the first crime.

The logic (whether you agree with it or not) is along the lines Avumede has suggested. Victimizing someone because of their race or their sexuality is a form of persecution on top of the assault or murder.

As to including women, I haven’t actually heard that argument made and I don’t see the logic working very easily (although I do approve of the Violence against Women Act). It would take a lot to persuade me that women are persecuted for being women in the same way that racial minorities or Jews or gays sometimes are. (Ironically, part of the reason is that sexism is so pervasive; and the other reason is that women aren’t a minority.) I forget who raised the issue of women being added to the hate crimes category, but I’d like to know the source for that if possible.

I agree that “the long term goal is a society that is not divided by racial, sexual, or gender discriminations.”
The problem is that our society is in fact divided in that way and, depending on the specific issue, women and racial minorities very often bear the brunt of those divisions. So the question is, how can we combat the discrimination and inequities that already exist.

I agree that identity politics can be counterproductive and I try to avoid them when they are. But I don’t actually see hate-crimes legislation as a simple identity-politics issue. I think there are strong moral and legal arguments (some of which have already been made) for punishing a crime that involves persecution more harshly than a similar crime that does not. Similar distinctions are made all the time, as others have said, between manslaughter, different degrees of murder, etc. Judges and juries can decide where and when to apply these standards just as they do all other questions of sentencing. Testimony as to state of mind is a typical aspect of a criminal trial.

Supposedly, all groups are protected under hate crime laws, including women and white males. In fact, some of the earliest cases where they were applied were cases of whites being assaulted by minorities because of their race. That doesn’t make them any better in my opinion.

I think the only way you could prove that someone committed a ‘hate crime’ was if they confessed to it or there was proof that they stated they were attacking the person because of whatever group they belonged to. As an example, if some guy said to someone “I’m going to beat him up because he’s black” then did so, that would be considered good enough proof for me. If they said “I’m going to beat up that nigger” and then beat up some black guy, I don’t think that would be proof enough that his race was the motivation of the crime - lots of people use derogatory terms simply because they are mad at the person, and not necessarily because they hate the group in general. If I call a woman I am angry at a cunt, that does not mean I hate women in general, nor does it mean I hate all Italians if I call somebody a greasy wop - I could just be mad at them and saying something that I know will piss them off. Minorities frequently use racial slurs against members of their own race when angry at them, should we start prosecuting them for hate crimes? It’s certainly POSSIBLE for someone to hate their own race.