Hate crime laws vary by state & are prosecuted differently

Suspect in Buffalo shooting under suicide watch as prosecutors contemplate hate-crime charges

According to the FBI, 7,759 hate crimes happened in the United States. More than 100 happened in Florida and nearly 200 in Georgia.

According to the FBI, 7,759 hate crimes happened in the United States. More than 100 happened in Florida and nearly 200 in Georgia.

These latest Anti-Defamation League numbers are from the year 2020. The laws and consequences vary from state to state.

Families in Buffalo, New York, are planning funerals for ten people, and three are recovering after they were shot at a grocery store. Federal prosecutors are contemplating hate-crime charges for the man who was arrested.

The Anti-Defamation League shows a hate crime is treated differently state by state. The ADL categorized it as fully-inclusive, non-inclusive and not protected. Fully inclusive means all categories of minority groups are protected. Non-inclusive means selected groups are protected. Not protected groups means no hate crime law is in place.

Shannon Schott, a partner at Platt and Schott, explained how state hate crime laws work.

“Basically, there are crimes that have hate as an element, otherwise most states have a statute that enhances the punishment of the crimes based on hate being a motivating factor,” Schott said.

FILE - This photo combo shows, from left, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan, and Gregory McMichael during their trial at at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. The white men were convicted of hate crimes for chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery as he ran in their Georgia neighborhood.

In Georgia, when Ahmaud Arbery was murdered as a hate crime, the three suspects were convicted of hate crimes on the federal level, but not on the state level. Arbery’s killers were found guilty of murder. Since his death, there is now a hate crime law in Georgia.

According to the anti-defamation league:

  • In Georgia: Race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and gender are protected; gender identity is not.
  • In Florida: Race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability are protected; gender and gender identity are not.

If Sunday’s mass shooting were under Florida law, the suspected shooter would be facing serious consequences.

“In this case, the individual would be facing death in Florida, and it would be very likely and a real possibility that he would be sentenced to death,” Schott said.

Schott spoke about the case and whether mental health could play a role in the defense.

“Racism and hate are not mental health illnesses that would predicate an insanity defense,” Schott explained. “Hate is not a mental illness so that is certainly not something that he can rely on unless there is actual mental illness.”


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