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We can all admit that tensions in our country are high right now. No matter who you voted for or what you look like, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the rising levels of violence through both large-scale and short-scale incidents.
Unfortunately, Colorado has the numbers to prove that hate crimes and other forms of violence are truly more prevalent than in the past.
Data from Colorado law enforcement shows that reports of hate crimes doubled from 2017 to 2018. Specifically, there were 96 hate crimes reported in 2017, and 185 reported in 2018. The number of violent crimes increased in the year 2018, too.
While the country still mourns the lives lost by crimes like the El Paso and Dayton shootings, law enforcement is understandably more vigilant than ever in identifying and preventing them.
Colorado officers, as with any other jurisdiction, do not want to overlook an assault charge that could have been motivated by discrimination or bias.
Especially in the current climate, if you are charged with assault and prosecutors believe that your motives qualify the incident as a “hate crime,” you are certain to face more than just an uphill battle in court.
Learn more about “hate crimes” and how prejudice and bias could seriously impact your sentence.
When law enforcement believes that, due to bias, a person causes bodily injury, property damage, or the fear of imminent injury or property damage, the person’s actions are considered a “hate crime.” Within the actual statute, Colorado addresses hate crime as a “bias-motivated crime.”
Types of Hate Crimes
Bias-motivated crimes could be committed against someone because of their:
The Most Common Hate Crimes
2018 data reflects that the most common hate crimes include:
For example, threatening to beat up someone because they are black or Latino could be considered a hate crime. Anti-Jewish graffiti also falls under the category of bias-motivated crimes in Colorado.
Physically assaulting a member of the LGBTQ community may also be considered a bias-motivated crime if prosecutors can prove that race was a factor in the assailant’s motivation.
Because these offenses are considered to be more dangerous than others, they carry more serious penalties.
Colorado law specifically describes the charges for bias-motivated crimes that involve intimidation, assault, and vandalism.
Crimes of Intimidation and Vandalism
Intimidation and property damage crimes motivated by bias are considered Class 1 misdemeanors. Penalties for this type of crime typically include up to 18 months in jail and between $500 and $5,000 in fines.
However, when offenses involve actual bodily injury, they are charged as assault crimes.
Assault Crimes and Enhancements for the Presence of Bias
Penalties for assault crimes vary, even if no one is accusing the offender of any sort of bias. They are usually charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor unless a) a deadly weapon is used to cause serious bodily injury, or b) the crime is directed at a member of law enforcement.
That said, assault crimes motivated by bias are never just a misdemeanor offense. Instead, bias will elevate your offense to either a Class 4 or Class 5 felony charge.
A bias-based assault charge is a Class 4 felony “if the offender is physically aided or abetted by one or more other persons during the commission of the offense.” Offenders who appear to have acted alone are charged with a Class 5 felony.
Class 5 felony convictions in Colorado carry a prison term of up to three years and can result in a $100,000 maximum fine. A Class 4 felony in Colorado may double that sentence, and you could be subject to a fine up to five times more than a Class 5 felony.
How do law enforcement officers know that an assault crime was motivated by bias?
Sometimes, it’s obvious. An offender yells racial slurs at their victim or the graffiti has a very clear message. Other times, prosecutors are seemingly grasping at straws.
If you are accused of a bias-motivated crime, there are strategies for fighting back. The prosecutor must have solid evidence that your crime was motivated by bias against someone due to their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on.
Are the witnesses unreliable? Do they have holes in their story? Is the story the prosecutor tells the jury one based on circumstantial evidence, rather than true events?
Talk to an experienced Colorado defense attorney about how you may be able to reduce your charges – or eliminate them altogether – by fighting against the accusation that an assault crime was motivated by bias.
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 designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.