While all criminal offenses are taken seriously in Texas, some violations of the law are considered particularly atrocious. When a person commits a crime against another individual solely based on his/her race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation, or being associated with a protected group.
Common types of hate crimes include:
The difference between a hate crime and a standard criminal action is that if a victim of the crime belongs to a minority group, an ordinary criminal charge may be upgraded to a hate crime. Not only does a hate crime victimize another person, but also violates the civil rights of the victim.
In order to be convicted of a hate crime, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was motivated to commit such a crime due to the victim’s minority background. In a hate crime case, the defendant’s background may be called into question—perhaps his or her history of prejudice—and used as evidence in court.
In Texas, a hate crime is subject to additional or enhanced penalties. Besides a first-degree felony or a Class A misdemeanor, the underlying offense is enhanced to the next higher category of offense. For example, if the offense is a third-degree felony and the jury determines the motivation of the crime is prejudice against the victim’s race, the offense is enhanced to a second-degree felony.
When an individual is charged with a hate crime, the first step needs to be hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer may argue that the offense was not motivated by prejudice. Since the only difference between an ordinary crime and a hate crime is because prejudice is a factor, which is the difference between guilty and not guilty.