Federal Hate Crimes Legislation

Earlier today, I mentioned that the FBI (and other federal agencies) doesn’t typically investigate “street crimes” like assault.  Nonetheless, there’s a new federal crime to be aware of today, and it’s one that proponents of the legislation have been wanting for a very long time.

According to the AP and to the Human Rights Campaign, the new legislation was tacked onto a defense spending bill.  What does it cover?  Hate crimes.

From what I gather, a new section of the U.S. Code will be created: 18 U.S.C. § 249, which will be part of Chapter 13, and which will make it a crime to willfully cause injury (or attempt to cause injury) to a person based on that person’s actual or perceived race, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation.  The punishment will be imprisonment for up to 10 years, or for any term of years up to life if death, kidnapping, or sexual abuse occurs (or attempts to do such are undertaken).  Congress also stated that nothing about the law should be construed as a limit on expression: “Nothing in this division shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.”

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