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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Greg on Politics(7): Hate Crimes Comment
    Gregory Morris, 5/25/07 10:34:51 am
    Here is the article that got me thinking about this:
    Lawdog Files on Equal Protection.

    The idea of hate crime law is to prevent violence against (racial, ethnic, sexual, etc.) minorities. In theory, it sounds fantastic. You'd have to be a racist, or some kind of hate-filled zealot to disagree, right? However, as in many "feel-good" laws, there are unforeseen social ramifications.

    Let's start with a few premises regarding the implementation of a hate-crime law...
    A) The victim is afforded no more protection. Of course, as I've mentioned before, laws do not prevent crimes, only deter and punish them. So by creating a special class of "hate crimes", you may only be offering a slightly greater deterrent for a racist from beating up someone of a different race.

    B) For the criminal, a harsher punishment is prescribed based on the reason, rather than the nature of the crime.

    C) The crime itself is different from the perspective of the victim and the criminal. The victim believes it to be caused by the criminal's dislike of the victim's race/sexual orientation/etc. The perspective of the criminal is one of discriminatory hatred. However, the result of the crime (property damage, injury, death) is the same, regardless of the criminal's thoughts.

    Deciding whether or not a crime is a "hate crime" can be problematic. Generally, to qualify as a hate crime, the prosecutor must decide A) what the victim felt the motive was and B) what the offender's actual motive was. The latter being less important than the former. Any time you give the victim power, via the prosecutor, to define how to prosecute a crime, you will always end up with justice for some (the loudest ones), but not others. Instead of the law determining how a crime should be prosecuted, you end up with people screaming "Racism" or "Hate Crime", which tends to bend the criminal justice system in favor of fist-pounding media churners, regardless of the truth.

    What happens if a black man kills a white man? Is that a hate crime? How about a lesbian killing a heterosexual man? You'll never see either of those prosecuted as hate crimes. This kind of mentality creates a "but some animals are more equal than others" attitude both within the media and the courts. And the "more equal" ones obtain that status, simply because they feel like they are (or were) being repressed, and are very vocal about it! In addition to creating a new protected class of people (basically, everyone that isn't a white male), hate-crime laws are, in effect, criminalizing thoughts.

    Now, for the issue that I feel is a more imminent threat to the constitution... First, here are my previous news-related posts:
  • Here and
  • Here
  • Prof. Volokh agrees.

    I've already explained how I think hate crime laws are pretty useless, now I'll talk about how they can be dangerous. I don't like people who attack others for being different... whether it is race, sexual preference, hair color, political persuasion, etc. I don't like the Westboro Baptist Church nutballs. I didn't like Jerry Falwell. I hate Neo-Nazis, KKK members and Skinheads. I also dislike racists like Al Sharpton. But, I will defend, to the death, their right to say what they please! The Bill of Rights specifically forbids any form of speech legislation, and the courts are clear about the issue. As I've mentioned before, only speech which incites violence or causes an immediate threat of violence may be prosecuted (still, it isn't the "speech" being prosecuted so much as the potential or actual results of the speech.) The prosecutor in the Crystal Lake case is equating hate speech to a hate crime. This is the line that, once crossed, will lead down a very chilling path. Hate speech is terrible, but constitutionally protected, and saying "it is OK to regulate some speech" is exactly the same as saying "it is OK to regulate all speech."

    Note: this is not meant to be scholarly work. This is simply my opinion. If I use someone else's ideas, I try to credit them where appropriate. I also reserve the right to change my opinion when provided with better information, as any half-intelligent person should do.

  • [Comments are closed after a month.]

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