One of the growing trends of Salt Lake City law enforcement is the increase of hate crime arrests. According to the FBI, 5,850 incidents of hate crimes were reported throughout the United States in 2015. Nearly 1,300 hate crimes were reported in Utah during the past two decades. However, the FBI also says it is one of the most under-reported crimes. The problem of hate crimes has not gone unnoticed in Utah. The state legislature established and passed hate crime laws in 1992. But are those laws working? Do Utah hate crime laws need to be tougher?
A hate crime is defined as the targeting of a person by violence due to their skin color, religion, sexual orientation and disability. Under Utah criminal law, a person who commits a hate crime can have a Class B misdemeanor charge bumped to a Class A misdemeanor. But many critics claim the state’s hate crime laws are not tough enough. They cite the fact hate crimes can only be applied to misdemeanor cases. But there are also some other issues that must be resolved.
Are Utah’s Hate Crime Law Fair?
Utah’s hate crime laws have been accused of being vague. For example, Utah’s hate crime law states an offender is guilty if their actions are designed to infringe on the victim’s ability to exercise their civil rights. Earlier this year, state senator Stephen Urquhart a Republican from St. George, proposed an amendment to Utah hate crime law that would apply equally to victims based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity. Under Urquhart’s proposed amendment, a Class A misdemeanor would be upgraded to a third-degree felony. The bill did not pass.
While most people agree hate crimes need to be addressed, there are some questions as to how they are interpreted. To convict a person of a hate crime in Utah, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the crime would not have taken place if not for the victims’ personal characteristics. The bill proposed by Senator Urquhart is very similar to federal hate crime laws.
Due to the vagueness of Utah’s hate crime law, far too many people throughout the state are wrongly accused. The statistics provided by the FBI also indicate Utah has more incidents of hate crimes than most states. Much of those statistics can be deceiving. The truth is the current hate crime laws are bad for both the prosecution and those accused of such crimes. Prosecutors find the law unenforceable due to its vagueness. From a criminal defense standpoint, Utah’s hate crime law focuses on the intent of the accused instead of the victim’s status.
When a person is accused of a hate crime in Salt Lake City, it can be extremely damaging to their future. There are few things worse to a person’s reputation than being labeled as a racist or a hate monger. Unfortunately, most people are quick to rush to judgement rather than examine the specifics of a case. It can ultimately cost a person getting a job or purchasing a home.
If you have have accused of a hate crime in Salt Lake City, it is essential to seek legal representation from an experienced criminal defense lawyer that protect your rights and look after your best interests. To learn more, contact the Law Offices of David Paul White & Associates and schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your legal options.