What Makes a Crime a “Hate Crime” In Colorado?

Crimes are committed every day for a variety of reasons, but there is a special category of crimes called hate crimes that are classified as being motivated by specific personal biases and can have serious repercussions for the accused.

In Colorado, there are a couple of hate crimes that have made waves lately. The first was an assault on a Sikh business owner in Jefferson County who was told to “go back to your own country” before being struck by a car. His injuries left him hospitalized for months.

The second is the case of Elijah McClain, a young man who died at the hands of police and paramedics in Aurora. It’s now known that the FBI is investigating this case a hate crime.

What these two cases have in common is that they were crimes allegedly motivated by hate and intolerance. Here’s what you need to know about hate crimes in Colorado, including what makes a hate crime a hate crime in this state.

What Colorado Calls a Hate Crime

A crime becomes a hate crime due to intent. If the intent was to harm or threaten to harm someone based on their innate qualities or affiliation with a certain group, then it’s considered a hate crime.

Crimes are legally considered hate crimes if they are perpetrated against one of these classifications or motivated by the fact that a person belongs to one of them:

  • Disability
  • Ethnicity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Age

There is actually no specific act that is considered a hate crime. But rather, nearly any crime may be classified as one if it is motivated personal bias against any of the categories described above. Some of the most common acts associated with hate crimes include:

This is not an exhaustive list of the crimes that can be considered a hate crime but are the acts most often leading to these charges.

The Punishment for Hate Crimes in Colorado

There are a number of factors that contribute to whether or not a hate crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. These factors include things such as:

  • If applicable, the criminal record of the perpetrator
  • The injuries sustained by the victim
  • Whether there was a provocation for the crime or when drug use has played a role
  • Whether an illegal weapon was used in the commission of the crimes

Hate crimes penalties are often enhanced, meaning that if found guilty for a hate crime, the punishment can be more severe than if convicted of the same crime without biased motivation.

For example, assault in Colorado that is considered a hate crime can be charged as a Class 4 or 5 felony, which is punishable by up to six years and prison and fines up to $500,000.

Other crimes, such as menacing or harassment that are charged as hate crimes are Class 1 misdemeanors, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Being Reported in Colorado for a Hate Crime

If a person believes they were targeted due to their ethnicity, sexual orientation, or because they are a member of any groups mentioned above, they are encouraged to contact their local police or the FBI field office in their area to report it.

Colorado Hate Crime Attorney

However, hate crimes are historically difficult to prosecute because the intent of the crime that makes it a hate crime must be proven, requiring clear evidence that the person who committed the crimes harbored ill intent for them. Evidence can be slim in those types of cases.

If you have been accused of a hate crime, then it’s especially important to ensure that as many details about the incident are written down as possible, including names and witness statements. These things can support the motivation of the crime, and help sort out whether your charges are classified as such.


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.