September 28, 2023
There are many subtle ways that people express bias every day. That’s why in many Colorado court cases, bias is hard to prove.
It can be as simple as providing someone slower service or choosing to hire someone else for no real reason. However, in some cases, bias is a little more obvious. Take a recent Colorado hate crime, for example.
A white man stabbed a Black man in the neck in a fast food restaurant unprovoked. When asked why he did it, the stabber responded “I don’t like Black people.” It’s hard to get a clearer sign of bias than that.
When it comes to bias, being able to prove it is important. If someone commits a crime because of bias, then they are likely to face significantly harsher penalties. Colorado takes bias and potential hate crimes seriously, especially since they’ve been spiking recently.
What Constitutes a Colorado Hate Crime
A hate crime isn’t a specific type of crime. Instead, it’s any crime that is committed because of bias against someone else. Bias is more than just disliking someone as a person – it’s disliking them for being part of a protected class of people.
According to Colorado criminal law, a hate crime can include harming another person, threatening them, or damaging their property. It becomes a hate crime if the perpetrator was motivated by bias against the victims:
- National origin,
- Disability, or
- Sexual orientation.
Proving that this was the cause of a crime can be difficult. However, certain aspects of a crime can clarify whether it was motivated by bias.
The simplest way to show that a crime was committed because of racial bias is to show that the perpetrator used slurs or negative language about someone’s identity during the crime.
The Colorado stabber’s open admission that he “does not like” Black people is a clear indicator to the court that his crime was racially motivated.
Hate Crimes Increase Penalties in Colorado
Proving that a crime was committed because of bias can have significant consequences for the accused. Penalties for hate crimes are significantly worse than penalties for the same crime that is not bias-motivated.
Vandalism is normally considered a Class 3 misdemeanor for damage under $300. This can include up to $750 in fines and up to 6 months in prison. Meanwhile, damaging property (vandalism) for reasons of bias is automatically a Class 1 misdemeanor, carrying up to 24 months in jail and $5,000 in fines.
Similarly, any type of assault in the third degree is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with the same penalties as vandalism hate crimes. However, if the assault is due to bias, then it becomes a class 5 felony. This carries up to 36 months in prison and fines up to $100,000 for conviction.
Additional Requirements from the Court
First-time convictions can also lead to additional penalties, such as community service or a restorative justice training program. This alternative is designed to help educate the convicted person. The goal is to reduce the risk of recidivism and therefore lower the danger that protected classes face.
Bias may be simply to prove in some cases, especially if the accused person mentioned their bias during the crime. Otherwise, being accused of a hate crime doesn’t always indicate a conviction of the elevated charge.
If you are facing a hate crime accusation, a qualified Colorado criminal defense attorney can increase your chances of a better outcome in your case.
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.