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Criminal Penalties Are Increased for Hate-Crime Offenses

When an offense is labeled a hate crime, the underlying crime is elevated by one level leading to the possibility of additional incarceration time.

Hate crime is not a standalone offense in Nassau County but is added to an underlying crime. A targeted criminal defense strategy is needed to fight both the initial crime and the hate categorization.

Basics of New York Hate Crimes

New York passed its Hate Crimes Act in 2000, making it the 44th state to pass laws to increase the penalties for hate crimes.

For example, a class D felony becomes a class C felony when it is classified as motivated by bias. Instead of facing up to 7 years in prison, the defendant is looking at as much as 15 years behind bars. The law also allows a misdemeanor to become a felony. A class A misdemeanor is elevated to a class E felony. A class E felony carries up to four years in prison versus a maximum of 364 days in jail with the misdemeanor charges.

Many Crimes Can Be Labeled as Hate Crimes

A hate crime is defined as an offense that is motivated, at least in part, by bias. The behavior can target individuals, a group of individuals, or public or private property. Characteristics that fall under the protection of hate crime in New York are race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity or expression, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

These and other crimes fall under the hate crimes statute:

Depending on the specifics of the case, federal hate-crime charges may also be filed.

Adults and Youth Can Be Charged with Hate Crimes

A 25-year-old Staten Island man was arraigned on Dec. 6, 2022, with hate crimes for a BB-gun attack on a father and his 7-year-old son leaving a kosher market. The man allegedly fired at them from his vehicle and drove away. The father and son were wearing yarmulkes.

He has been charged with the following:

  • Two counts of attempted assault in the second degree as a hate crime
  • Two counts of attempted assault in the second degree
  • Two counts of attempted assault in the third degree as a hate crime
  • Two counts of criminal possession of a weapon
  • One count of endangering the welfare of a child

Hate crime charges are not restricted to adults.

On Dec. 5, 2022, a 14-year-old student at Eastern Suffolk BOCES - Sequoya High School in Holtsville was charged with second-degree aggravated harassment as a hate crime and making a threat of mass harm. The student allegedly texted another student, threatening to kill or injure students in the LGBTQ community and every girl at the school, Suffolk County Police Department officials said.

Hate Crimes Are Challenging to Prove

The experienced defenders from Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC know that proving a person’s motivation is difficult in a court of law. This challenge often leads to the “hate” designation being removed in plea agreements.

The mere fact the alleged victim has a protected characteristic does not mean the crime was motivated by hate. This motivation must be proven in court. Also, a suspected perpetrator cannot be found guilty of a hate crime if mental illness – not hate – is the source of their actions.

As defenders and former prosecutors, we have insight and acumen not typically found at other firms. We use this rich knowledge to build customized strategies for our clients. When you need criminal defense, contact us online or call (516) 218-5131 to schedule a consultation.