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Hate Crimes

Chicago Criminal Defense AttorneyDefending against Hate Crime Charges – Illinois Criminal Defense Counsel

A hate crime is a violent act that is focused on an individual or group based on some personal identifier, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, or nationality. There are times when a person may be charged with a hate crime when he committed a property crime against a house of worship or religious establishment because of the nature of the institution. These crimes involve a two-tiered approach to prosecution and defense based on the necessity of proving the defendant (i) committed the underlying offense, and (ii) acted with malice based on the identifying characteristics of the person or group.

Hate crimes carry with them a social stigma that may result in a person being convicted while trying to get through it on his own. This is the worst thing that a person can do. Everyone is entitled to the best defense possible and it is critical to retain an attorney who is going to fight to protect a person’s freedom and preserve his rights. Since hate crimes are prosecuted zealously and the penalties are severe, it is especially important to retain the right attorney.

Attorney David L. Freidberg has defended the rights and freedoms of individuals accused of criminal actions for almost two decades, including hate crimes. He believes that every person is entitled to aggressive advocacy, regardless of the nature of the charges. Mr. Freidberg will examine every piece of evidence and review witness statements in order to expose flaws and weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Many times, a prosecutor is too hasty in filing hate crime charges because of the public and media scrutiny. This leads to a lack of evidence or evidence that was gathered in violation of a person’s rights. At the Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C., every effort is made to get the best possible outcome for those accused of a hate crime.

Hate Crimes in Illinois

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors have turned more and more time, energy and resources towards the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes in recent years. There also have been legislative changes to make the penalties for these crimes more severe. The nature of these offenses means that there is intense media scrutiny surrounding the crimes and negative repercussions far beyond the legal consequences for those being prosecuted for these offenses. The type of underlying offense that is committed as part of the hate crime varies. There are many different acts that can form the basis for a hate crime charge, including:

  • Assault;
  • Aggravated assault
  • Battery;
  • Harassment by telephone or electronic communication;
  • Mob action;
  • Disorderly conduct;
  • Criminal trespass to a vehicle or residence;
  • Criminal damage to property; and
  • Theft.

What is central to bringing charges of a hate crime is the motivation behind the act. Under Illinois law, a person commits a hate crime when he acts on the basis of a person or group’s identifying characteristics, including:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Creed;
  • Religion;
  • Ancestry;
  • Gender;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Physical or mental disability; or
  • National origin.

It does not matter if the individual or group does not actually fall within the identified class as long as the person who committed the crime perceived them to fall within that category. See 720 ILCS 5/12-7.1.

Penalties for Being Convicted of a Hate Crime

The penalties for being convicted of a hate crime are severe and getting even harsher as public outcry against these types of crimes increases. A person who is convicted of a hate crime for a first offense may be charged with a Class 4 felony. A second offense may result in a conviction of a Class 2 felony. However, there are enhancing factors that will lead to a more serious charge. If the person committed the crime within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, church, synagogue, mosque, temple, mortuary, cemetery, or ethnic community center, then the crime may be charged as a more serious felony. Penalties for these crimes vary, but the general sentences include:

  • Conviction of a Class 4 felony may result in a prison term of between one to three years and a fine of up to $25,000.00;
  • Conviction of a Class 3 felony may result in a prison term of between two to five years and a fine of up to $25,000.00; and
  • Conviction of a Class 2 felony may result in a prison term of between three to seven years and a fine of up to $25,000.00.

In addition to the penalties that are imposed under the law, a judge may impose additional punishment including restitution for the damages that the victim suffered as a result of the offense, as well as a fine, in addition to the legal fine, of up to $1,000.00. If the defendant is given probation or conditionally discharged, he may be ordered to perform community service. If there was a religious component to the hate crime, he may be ordered to participate in a program designed to halt the occurrence of these types of offenses.

Defending against Hate Crime Charges

A person who is being prosecuted for a hate crime will have allegedly committed some criminal act that the prosecution will attempt to show was motivated by hate. This means that there are two separate elements to the case: proving that the defendant committed the violent or criminal underlying act and proving that hate relating to the personal identity of the individual or group was the reason for the crime. This actually is a high burden for the prosecutor to surmount. It may be necessary to put witnesses on the stand who can testify about the words or actions of the defendant during the commission of the crime. This also means that there are multiple avenues of defense, including challenging the witness testimony or other evidence of the hate-based motivation. When the prosecution fails to prove the underlying offense, the case for the hate crime fails as well.

In addition to challenging the prosecution’s case directly, there also is the possibility of attacking the constitutionality of the seizure of evidence and other challenges to the method by which the prosecution built the case. An experienced criminal defense attorney will attack the case from all sides.

David L. Freidberg Aggressively Defends Those Accused of Hate Crimes

A criminal conviction for a hate crime will lead to serious legal consequences, including prison time, hefty fines, and a felony record. It also will have a long-term impact on the professional and private life of the defendant, carrying with it a social stigma that will limit opportunities and incur community wrath. It is imperative for a person accused of this type of crime to fight against these charges with every tool at his disposal. David L. Freidberg has spent nearly 20 years advocating on behalf of criminal defendants, believing that everyone is entitled to the best possible defense. At the Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C., the legal team is prepared to investigate every piece of evidence and analyze witness testimony in order to develop a strong and effective defense. Contact the office at (312) 560-7100 or (800) 803-1442 or send an email to dfreidberg@freidberglaw.com in order to schedule a free consultation. We will respond to your inquiry promptly. We are available 24/7 for your convenience.