consultants are sandburs

Friday, December 04, 2015

What about, "I hit him because he was a Packers fan," or "I robbed that girl at gunpoint because she looked like a privileged white kid?"

Hate crime enhancement of criminal sanction is the subject of this MPR item.

Hate crimes are fundamentally wrong because they are crimes. That is apart from what the perpetrator thinks. The action is the crime, and where state of mind should matter is where a harm was by mistake or negligence, vs. a willful act, causing harm because the intent was to cause harm.

Do you enhance a penalty against one impeding access to an abortion clinic because the person impeding others hates abortion? That would provide enhancement against abortion haters, if you added to a catalog or listing "abortion seekers." Or do you write a separate statute about impeding abortion clinic access as a separate crime from, say, impeding access to a pizza vendor? Is that latter kind of specificity a better approach, rather than a big vague "hate crimes" catalog?

Or do you focus enforcement attention (rather than imposing enhanced threats of punishment) to where a stern likelihood of apprehension and prosecution vs plea dealing might cause a greater deterrence? Make it policy, but with discretion in implementing policy, such as, "In this office we will not bargain down hate crimes," vs. other approaches?

In particular, considering the robbed victim picked because of appearing to be a privileged white person: A rationale might be free of hate, e.g., that if the aim is to steal at gunpoint a high end laptop, is there hate to a perpetrator reasoning that privileged white people might more likely be the ones buying high-end? That the back pack loot would be quality and not junk? I.e., no hate to it, just a weighing of likelihoods?

And will "Packers fan" types of motivation ever make a list of suspect "hateful" categories? Why not? The level of hurt to the victim should always be the main consideration, with deterrence next, and in that sense is there any actual evidence that "hate crime" enhancements are more a deterrent than not? Is it a policy based on evidence, or a feel better thing regardless of whether a jot of further deterrence arises or not?

The old, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me," is in fact wrong, words can hurt, but then the answer is to criminalize verbal harassment in any form, whether it arises from hatred of a type, vs. hatred of a particular individual because he/she happens to be a neighbor instead of living on the other side of town where your peace of mind is unaffected by distant conduct?

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