September 28, 2023
As the country seemingly continues to spin out in the wake of a confusing world-wide pandemic in a myriad of ways, Colorado’s recent history with bias-motivated crimes is garnering ever-increasing attention locally.
Late last year, in fact, the Denver Post reported that hate crimes in Colorado had seen a 16 percent uptick, even though the nation as a whole was seeing hate crime numbers decrease.
Now, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Post has recently highlighted that state lawmakers are seeing additional increases in hate crimes against groups such as Asian Americans and immigrants as well as a rise in conspiracy theories surrounding the state’s first Jewish governor.
If you’ve been accused of a bias-motivated crime, here’s what you need to know about the charges you face and the penalties that can ultimately result from a conviction.
What is a Hate Crime?
A hate crime is any crime committed against another that is motivated by any of the following:
- Sexual orientation
- Nationality or ethnicity
- Physical or mental disability
- Gender identity
Hate crimes can be charged for nearly any given criminal act. Some of the most common forms of hate crime are:
- Vandalism or the damage of another’s property
- Threatening violence
- Killing or injuring another person
Colorado Hate Crimes Laws
Colorado breaks down hate crimes into two categories. They are bias-motivated harassment and bias-motivated crime. Let’s dive a little deeper into each.
Bias Motivated Harassment
Bias motivated harassment occurs when someone is intentionally targeted in a way that is meant to annoy, torment, terrorize, or alarm them based on their race, ancestry, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Simply annoying someone isn’t a crime, but if the person feels that the harassment presents a credible threat to their safety or the safety of their family, then harassment can be charged.
In general, harassment is a misdemeanor in Colorado. It can carry a fine of up to six months in jail and up to $750 in fines. But harassment considered a hate crime can result in up to 18 months in jail and fines up to $5,000.
Bias Motivated Crime
This crime involves violence or threats of violence against a person or their property that is motivated by the victim’s race, ancestry, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Bias motivated crimes can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor reliant on how much and what kind of harm was caused.
Penalties for Hate Crimes
A hate crime can be a felony or a misdemeanor. It depends on a variety of factors as well as the underlying crime associated with a hate crime, such as assault. In general, some factors that can influence the penalties for hate crimes include:
- The criminal history of the accused
- Whether drug use or provocation played a role in the commission of the crime
- The extent of the victim’s injuries
- Whether or not an illegal weapon was used to commit the crime
Under federate hate crime legislation, violence motivated by bias is punishable by between 10 years and life in prison. Depending on the crime, that can enhance a sentence for a crime in Colorado.
Hate crimes can be complicated, as are the laws surrounding them. It’s important to understand what a hate crime is so that you can avoid any behavior that may put you in legal jeopardy.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020 and is Lead Counsel rated.