Punishing Hate Crimes

A discussion of how the punishments for hate crimes are more severe than the underlying offense would normally prescribe.

The paper explains that in recent years many states and the federal government have enacted penalty enhancement statutes to punish bias motivated crime, or hate crimes. These statutes punish the motive behind the crime, thereby punishing the offender’s thoughts. Further, the paper argues that we should punish hate crimes through enforcement priorities and recording statutes which are responsive to the community and do not punish thought. The paper concludes that penalty enhancement statutes are wrong and provides several interesting alternatives that would possibly be more effective. The paper cites numerous cases as evidence for its assertions.
Hate crimes: the definition varies from state to state and person to person. However, a standard definition is any offense[s] motivated by hatred against a victim based upon his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, handicap, ethnicity, or national origin. It may seem that hate crimes are nothing new to American culture, and in most ways they are not. Hatred has been almost as much of a contributor to the development of the United States legal system as has tolerance. The two are in a constant battle for superiority. Hatred and bigotry is what allowed slavery’s survival, the Japanese internment camps of World War II, and the strength of the Ku Klux Klan and segregationists less than a century ago. But until recently, the government has been able to control the negative factors of our society without infringing on the rights guaranteed by the first Amendment.