San Antonio Hate Crime Defense Lawyer Fights Enhanced Charges
Skilled and determined representation for state and federal charges
In 2001, Texas adopted the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, named for a black man who was killed by white supremacists in Jasper in 1998. The law was intended to add an extra layer of deterrence to violent crimes committed for discriminatory reasons. A defendant is charged with a higher-degree offense and so is in jeopardy of more severe punishment. If you are facing hate crime charges in Texas, Kevin L. Collins, P.C. can provide you with knowledgeable and skilled representation, protecting your rights while working for the best possible outcome.
What constitutes a hate crime under Texas law?
Under Texas law, an offense becomes a hate crime when the offender acts out of bias against the victim’s real or perceived race, religion, color, sex, disability, sexual preference, age or national origin. Also included among protected victims are peace officers and judges. A prosecutor must prove explicit motivation related to prejudice, hatred, or advocacy of violence.
Hate crimes should not be confused with hate speech. There is no statute outlawing or even defining hate speech, which is open to individual interpretation. Someone might call a statement hate speech but the content of that speech might be perfectly lawful under the First Amendment. With a hate crime, there is an underlying criminal offense. Common examples of underlying offenses that can be enhanced to hate crimes are assault, aggravated assault, vandalism of property, robbery and criminal harassment.
How offenses are enhanced to hate crimes in Texas
Generally, when a defendant is charged with a hate crime, the underlying offense is bumped up to the next degree. Thus, a Class C misdemeanor becomes a Class B misdemeanor. There are limits to this rule, however. The law does not enhance a Class A misdemeanor to a felony. Instead, the law raises the minimum jail time to 180 days. There is also no enhancement for a first-degree felony, which already is punishable by up to life in prison.
Federal hate crime laws
A federal crime may be charged if there is evidence the accused person acted on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability to deprive a citizen of a constitutionally protected right. Federal hate crime laws can come into play for any of the following:
- Willfully causing bodily injury or attempting to do so using a dangerous weapon
- Using force or threatening to do so to interfere with housing rights
- Defacing, damaging or destroying religious real property
- Intentionally obstructing any person’s free exercise of religion
- Using force or threat of force to willfully interfere with another person’s voting rights, public education, employment, jury duty, travel or enjoyment of public accommodations
Federal hate crimes also include conspiracies to deny people constitutional rights on the basis of unlawful discrimination.
In defending against hate crime charges, Kevin L. Collins challenges every element of the underlying offense as well as the basis for enhancement. He raises every pertinent fact that would shed doubt on allegations of bias and thereby weaken the government’s case.
Contact an effective criminal defense attorney in San Antonio to fight hate crime charges
Kevin L. Collins, P.C. provides aggressive defense to state and federal hate crime charges in San Antonio, Texas and vicinity. To schedule a consultation, call 210-598-8629 or contact us online.