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Were You Charged with a Hate Crime?

A hate crime in Texas is any crime motivated by bias or hatred of someone due to their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or another characteristic. A common example would be beating up someone suspected of being gay or writing graffiti on a synagogue. The key is whether the defendant was motivated by hate. For example, a person could assault a lesbian because she ran over their dog, not because of her sexuality or gender, so that assault would not be a hate crime. The key is motivation.

If you are accused of a hate crime, you might suffer enhanced penalties, including additional time behind bars or on parole. A League City criminal defense lawyer at Tad Nelson & Associates can defend someone accused of any crime, including those allegedly motivated by bias or hate. Call our firm to schedule a meeting as soon as possible.

Hate Crimes Have Surged in Texas

According to the Texas Observer, the number of hate crimes increased for 6 straight years, from 2017 to 2022, with the numbers in 2022 being the highest on record. There were 549 documented hate crimes in the state in 2022, with crimes against LGBT people making up most of the offenses, with anti-Jewish crimes the second highest. However, other victims were targeted for being Arab, Muslim, female, or even white.

In 2022, Galveston County had 13 documented hate crimes, which is relatively low compared to other counties. Still, you can expect the state to throw the book at you. Suspected hate crimes often make the news, and there is pressure on prosecutors to get tough on defendants.

Enhanced Penalties

Under Texas Penal Code § 12.47, a defendant’s crime is enhanced to the next level if they were motivated by hate or bias. Suddenly, a defendant is facing more serious penalties for the same offense.

For example, you might face Class B misdemeanor charges. If a jury says you were motivated by hate, then you will be facing Class A misdemeanor penalties. Similarly, someone facing a state jail felony could have their offense increased to a third-degree felony.

There is a risk that someone charged with a Class C misdemeanor could see an enhancement. Class C crimes do not result in any jail time, only a fine. But if there’s a hate crimes enhancement, then time behind bars comes into play.

There are two exceptions: Class A misdemeanors and First-degree felonies. A Class A misdemeanor does not get increased to a felony, but the minimum jail sentence is enhanced to 180 days. That’s the minimum.

First-degree felonies are not enhanced because the jail sentence is already 5-99 years. But you could still end up with more time behind bars than if you were not motivated by hate.

Defending Hate Crime Charges

Our lawyers keep the following principles in mind when defending any client:

1.       The government first needs to prove you committed a crime. If they can’t, then there’s no hate crime enhancement. You are not guilty. For this reason, we defend hate crime cases very similarly to how we defend any other crime, holding the prosecutor to their burden of proof.

2.       The prosecution needs to show you were motivated by hate. That’s hard to do. Some prosecutors like to comb through someone’s social media history to find offensive, hateful statements made a year or two before the crime. But that doesn’t prove you were motivated by bias when you allegedly committed a crime.

3.       You shouldn’t start deleting Tweets or Facebook posts, because that could be a separate crime. Nonetheless, let your attorney know if you have social media accounts because they are often relevant in these cases.

4.       Alleged hate crimes routinely get featured on the news. Prosecutors sometimes feel pressured to bring hate crime charges by the media or affected communities, so the case might be weaker than it initially appears.

5.       If your case goes to trial, then jury selection is key. You want a lawyer who understands how to defend a criminal case in front of a jury of your peers.

At Tad Nelson, we can immediately begin pulling together evidence in your support. We identify and then attack the weaknesses in the state’s evidence.

Call Us to Start on Your Case

Tad Nelson & Associates has tackled the full range of criminal cases, defending folks accused of assault, battery, aggravated assault, and other offenses. Our legal team can defend you from hate crime charges, so contact us to find out more.