The violent images of neo-Nazis clashing with police and protesters in Charlottesville are still fresh in the mind of people throughout the country. But the violence in Virginia was hardly anything new. Similar incidents of racial violence have sprouted in places like Portland and even Salt Lake City. The rising amount of hate crimes nationwide has sparked a new debate among Utah lawmakers. Is it time to for the state to pass new hate crime legislation?
Have Hate Crimes Increased in Utah?
Although it is debatable whether racial violence has truly increased in 2017, the incidents have become more visible to the public. Thanks to smartphones and 24-hour news media, it is almost impossible for any of these incidents to go unnoticed. Recently, white nationalist displayed racists posters on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City. The posters read “Stop the blacks” and listed unsubstantiated statistics about crimes committed by African Americans. Similar posters and signs have been found at the campus of Weber State University in Ogden.
Hate crimes are defined as any crimes motivated by hatred towards a specific race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin or disability. The current Utah hates crime statute is only limited to misdemeanors and is extremely vague in its language. Among the problems is the failure to list protected groups. Back in 2016, former state senator Steve Urquhart led efforts to pass new hate crime legislation. However, the bill did not pass. Urquhart blamed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for not supporting the legislation.
Can You Prove Hate?
Early in 2017, another hate crime bill was proposed by Senator Daniel Thatcher. But it suffered a quick death after failing to even receive a committee hearing. In an attempt to gain more support, Thatcher had named his bill as the “victim selection bill” instead of calling it hate crime legislation. Opponents of previous hate crime bills criticized the changes because they could not effectively prove hate. But Thatcher is not giving up so easily. He intends to reintroduce the bill again next year.
Defending Those Accused of Hate Crimes
The accusation of a hate crime can be extremely damaging to anyone. It can not only damage their reputation, it can also result in the loss of a job and even extensive time behind bars. Prosecutors are looking to the state government to pass new hate crime legislation to give them a more effective tool in convicting those facing charges. As of now, Utah has some of the most lenient and vague hate crime laws on the books.
Have You Been Accused of a Hate Crime in Salt Lake City? Contact White & Matern, PLLC For a Free Initial Consultation
If you or someone you know has been charged with a hate crime, it is important to fight these charges immediately. The Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys at White & Matern, PLLC are committed to protecting the rights of each client. They take pride in utilizing an aggressive and comprehensive approach to help place clients in the best position to succeed. To learn more, contact their Salt Lake City law office today and schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.