Why is a state-wide hate crime law needed in South Carolina?
South Carolina could not prosecute the Emanuel AME Church massacre as a hate crime because it is just one of five states without a hate crime law. Although the massacre was prosecuted under a federal hate crime law, that law is only used for the most serious cases and is not a replacement for a state law.
South Carolina has seen a consistent increase in hate crimes from 2016 to 2018: In 2018 South Carolina reported 111 hate crimes up from 87 in 2017 and 23 in 2016.
Hate crimes demand a priority response because of their special emotional and psychological impact on the victim and the victim’s community.
Hate crimes tear at the very fabric of society by intimidating the victim’s community because of who they are, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected by the law; and they raise the specter of retaliatory hate crimes against the perpetrator’s community.
What would the hate crime law do?
The law would create an additional penalty for violation of SC law for assault or property offenses committed because of a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or mental disability and physical disability.
The ordinance would not give special rights to particular groups. Rather, it is “color blind.” All residents of the city would be covered.
The most recent FBI hate crimes statistics from 2018 reflect that anyone can be a victim of a hate crime:
2018 saw the deadliest anti-Semitic hate crime in American history when 11 worshippers were murdered in the three congregations meeting at the Tree of Life Synagogue building in Pittsburgh.
Nearly 50% of race-based hate crimes were directed towards African Americans.
Hate crimes directed at LGBTQ individuals increased by almost 6%, including a significant 42% increase in crimes directed against transgender individuals.
Anti-Hispanic hate crimes increased 14%, the third straight year of increased reporting.
Does law enforcement support hate crime laws?
Twenty-six state attorney generals and 14 major law enforcement organizations supported the 2009 federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act, including the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association; Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association; International Association of Chiefs of Police; Major Cities Chiefs Association; National Asian Peace Officers Association; National Black Police Association; National Coalition of Public Safety Officers; National District Attorneys Association; National Latino Police Officers Association; National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; Police Executive Research Forum; Police Foundation; and Texas Police Chiefs Association.
Why are hate crime reporting requirements important?
Hate crimes are underreported for many reasons, including the fact that reporting to the FBI is optional. A problem cannot be addressed unless its scope is known.
Hate crime data collection mandates are an important tool for law enforcement that provide an essential baseline for understanding the nature and magnitude of the problem of hate violence. Studies have demonstrated that victims are more likely to report a hate crime if they know a special reporting system is in place.
Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia require their police agencies to collect and report hate crime data and fourteen states require training for law enforcement officials in how to identify, report, and respond to bias-motivated criminal activity.
Data collection efforts have increased public awareness of hate crimes and prompted improvements in the local response of police and the criminal justice system to these crimes.
Do hate crime laws violate the First Amendment or punish thought?
Hate crime laws punish criminal conduct and not speech. There cannot be a hate crime without a perpetrator committing an underlying crime such as assault, vandalism or arson.
Hate crime laws in no way require law enforcement to read the minds of the accused to determine bias motive. Rather, bias motive must be proven the same way motive is proven in any other criminal case: with admissible evidence proving all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury or judge. Such evidence usually comes in two forms: what is said by a defendant during or proximate to a criminal act or graffiti left at a crime scene. So, prosecuting a hate crime requires a higher evidentiary burden and obtaining a conviction is more challenging than proving other types of crime.