Individuals become a target of hate crimes due his or her perceived membership to a certain group which is defined by race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or political affiliation. A hate crime means that a criminal act has been committed which is motivated by prejudice and hatred where incidents may involve assault, harassment, verbal abuse, damage to property, graffiti or hate mail.
With regard to the old laws covering hate crimes, it had limited federal jurisdiction in that hate crimes only referred to ones based on race, religion or national origin. It also has a requirement that the victim has to be attacked while engaging in a federally protected activity like attending school. Depending on the state, hate crime charges are determined by the decision of law enforcement officials and a separate decision of a local prosecutor.
A recent bill passed by President Obama lifts the prerequisite and includes other protected characteristics that minorities have in the hate crimes law. Although there is still an ongoing debate, it could also mean the enhancement of penalties when convicted of hate crimes.
The hate crime statutes work in a way that UK have adopted a form of penalty-enhancement statute. This is based on the ADL model hate crime law that increases the sentence if a crime is motivated by the victim’s personal characteristics. It has to be proven by the prosecutor that the perpetrator committed the crime and that the crime was committed for the race, religion or personal characteristic that the victim has.
Today, the federal government can become involved in hate crime charges if the local government is unable or unwilling to work on the case. If a perpetrator of the crime was never charged with a hate crime, it doesn’t have any bearing on the reporting of a hate crime to the UK GOV site hare crime page.