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New York Hate Crimes Defense Attorney

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Facing a hate crime charge in New York can be a stressful experience. The potential consequences — penalties, fines, and a permanent criminal record — can be overwhelming.

Hate crimes are treated with severity under federal and state laws. However, with the right legal representation, fighting these charges effectively and securing the best possible outcome for your situation is possible.

As a former New York City Prosecutor, attorney Mehdi Essmidi understands both sides of the courtroom. He knows how prosecutors build their cases and uses this knowledge to anticipate their strategies and build strong defenses for his clients. Don’t hesitate to reach out for a free consultation.

Understanding Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are crimes motivated by invidious hatred toward particular groups. They harm individuals and send a message of intolerance and discrimination to all members of the group to which the victim belongs.

A hate crime is not a standalone charge. It’s an enhancement to an existing crime. For instance, if someone is charged with battery, and it’s determined that it was motivated by bias, this person could face additional penalties under hate crime laws. Common hate crimes include:

Hate crimes are offenses committed against individuals or property due to prejudice, bias, or discrimination. These charges are committed or intended to be committed against a person, in whole or in substantial part, due to the victim’s:

  • Color
  • Gender
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Ancestry
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation

These offenses can range from felonies to misdemeanors and can include menacing, burglary, criminal mischief, and protesting related charges if motivated by the victim’s protected characteristics.

18 USC § 249 Federal Hate Crimes

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act describes that it is a federal crime to willfully cause bodily injury or attempt to do so using a dangerous weapon because of the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

  • For crimes involving kidnapping or an attempt to kill, the penalty can be life imprisonment.
  • The maximum penalty for other offenses under this law is ten years imprisonment.

NY Penal Code 485.05 Hate Crimes

In New York State, hate crimes are defined under Penal Code 485.05. A person commits a hate crime when they intentionally select a victim based on their perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability, or sexual orientation and commit a specified offense against them.

New York law covers offenses including assault, manslaughter, murder, stalking, and menacing. The penalties for these crimes are increased if they’re prosecuted as hate crimes. For example, if a conviction of a Class E felony is determined to be a hate crime, it’s treated as a Class D felony with harsher penalties.

Examples of Hate Crimes

Hate crimes can take many forms, and the severity of these offenses can vary greatly. Some common types of hate crimes include:

Damaging someone’s vehicle because of their sexual orientation: This could include vandalizing a person’s vehicle with homophobic slurs or slashing their tires, motivated by the victim’s perceived sexual orientation.

Physical assault on someone due to their race: Attacking an individual because of their skin color or ethnic background. This can range from pushing or shoving to more serious physical violence.

Vandalizing a home with racist graffiti: Spray-painting hate symbols on the home of a family from a racial or ethnic minority.

Threatening someone because of their gender identity: Sending threatening messages or making verbal threats towards an individual because of their sexual orientation.

Destroying religious symbols at a place of worship: Acts such as breaking windows, defacing religious icons, or graffiti on buildings associated with a particular religion, like a mosque, synagogue, or church.

Bullying a student for their national origin: Harassing or physically harming a student in school because they are from a different country or belong to a specific ethnic group.

Consequences of Hate Crime Convictions

The immediate consequences of a hate crime conviction depend on the nature of the underlying offense and whether it’s prosecuted under state or federal law.

Hate crimes are not standalone charges but enhancements to existing charges. Convictions can significantly increase the penalties for the underlying offense.

How Hate Crimes Aggravate Other Offenses

This enhancement applies to a wide range of offenses, including assault, battery, harassment, stalking, and property damage. It also applies to both misdemeanors and felonies. Therefore, even if you’re charged with a relatively minor offense, the penalties could be increased if prosecuted as a hate crime.

Given these severe consequences, it’s crucial to have an experienced attorney on your side if you’re facing hate crime charges.

Common Hate Crime Defenses

Successfully defending against hate crime charges requires a thorough understanding of both the underlying offense and the hate crime enhancement. Some common defenses include:

Lack of evidence: The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the underlying offense and that it was motivated by bias or prejudice. If there’s insufficient evidence to support evidence, it could affect the prosecution’s case.

Constitutional defenses: In some cases, the constitutionality of the hate crime laws under which you’re charged may be contested. 

Lack of intent: The prosecution must prove that you intentionally selected the victim based on their perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation. If they cannot prove this intent, the hate crime enhancement may not apply.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you’re facing hate crime charges, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Mehdi Essmidi has a proven track record defending clients against criminal charges, including hate crimes.

With the right legal representation, it’s possible to fight these charges effectively and secure the best possible outcome for your situation. Contact The Law Offices of Mehdi Essmidi P.L.L.C. today for a free consultation.