• Michael Thompson

I Hate 'Hate Crime' Laws

No, I am not a Trumper. I am not even a Conservative. I had this very discussion among a group of liberal Democrats, and I could not even finish my argument. I think there is room for disagreement on how laws are written and enforced in this country. Hating 'hate crime' laws might be an exaggeration. An important distinction, it is not the crimes against individual groups that I find appalling, but qualifying crimes into special categories.


I Hate Laws That Categorize

I feel as if I would be a hypocrite to say categorizing laws based on characteristics is wrong when applied to police, but okay when applied to minorities. I do not believe that crimes against law enforcement or theft of the elderly need to be written in a way that says their crime is unique and different solely because of descriptors. In fact, there are very few crimes that should be defined by the characteristics of an individual. The only ones I can think off-hand would be sexual crimes against a child. There may be others but that is all I could remember.


I know it is not a popular position among Progressives and is more Libertarian in thought, but I just feel murder is murder. It does not matter skin color, sexual orientation, age, or occupation. A prosecutor should charge an individual with murder and let the evidence decide how much time an individual should receive if they are convicted. Truthfully, I think such qualifiers prejudice a jury. The jury hears that an individual is not being charged with just murder but a special type of murder. That prejudices a jury before they start.


Also, I believe that crimes that have categories are very damaging to the various minority communities. Prosecutors are given great discretion in charges they may bring against individuals. Overcharging crimes has been a weapon that prosecutors use against defendants with vigor to force plea bargains. For example, stealing a check from an 80-year old woman is a despicable crime of theft, and hopefully, you will be punished accordingly. However, I don’t think you should be charged with theft, theft of the elderly, forgery, and check fraud.


This need to force favorable plea bargains is damaging to the justice system and minorities often feel the brunt of overzealous prosecutors. I do not feel bad when an individual is charged with a hate crime. Minorities have been disadvantaged for years in the criminal justice system. However, I can not bring my self to say that increased charges for the murder of a law enforcement officer should be dropped from the books, but increased charges because someone hates an ethnicity should stay. I would even say that the murder of the President should be charged as simply murder, and not under U.S. Code Title 18, Criminal Procedure 1751.


The biggest flaw in my argument is that often judges and juries do not punish uniformly. It should not be hard for a judge to figure that the person committing a murder, who did it because they hate minorities, should receive extra time at sentencing. The truth is the system is too often rigged against the correct outcome. Maybe I just have a Pollyanna attitude, that barring very special circumstances, everyone should be treated the same.


I hope my reasoning makes sense. Also, I am not beholden to this belief. If anything, I am flexible in my opinion. If you think I am wrong, let me know. I do not think you can do away with the overcharging of individuals and still allow hate crimes. Can you argue that enhanced crimes against law enforcement officers should be abolished but not hate crimes?


Finally, despite not wanting to sound like a hypocrite, I will be honest. I do not lose any sleep over a Nazi, Klansman, or whatever they call themselves now – Proud Boys, receiving a few extra years on a sentence for their crimes.


Further Reading

An article about New York Prosecutors threatening to charge hate crimes where none exist to get a confession - https://www.villagevoice.com/2000/08/08/hate-crime-laws-a-costly-victory/


State of Louisiana decided that police should also be included in hate crimes - https://digitalcommons.law.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6700&context=lalrev


Article on overcharging - https://abovethelaw.com/2018/12/the-insidiousness-of-overindicting/

 

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