Washington law makes it a crime if you perform certain criminal acts against someone because of that person’s attributes or make-up (for example, the person’s race or religion). Hate crimes are serious felonies in Washington punishable by confinement in state prison for several years. If you are facing criminal charges under Washington or federal law, please contact a criminal defense attorney now for assistance.
What is a Washington “Hate Crime”?
RCW 9A.36.080 is the main Washington statute on hate crime offenses. According to this law, you commit a hate crime if you maliciously and intentionally commit certain acts against a person because of your perception of that person’s:
- National origin,
- Sexual orientation,
- Gender expression or identity, or
- Mental, physical, or sensory disability.
The “certain acts” that trigger a hate crime include:
- Causing physical injury to the victim or another person,
- Causing physical damage to or destruction of the property of the victim or another person, or
- Threatening a specific person or group of persons and placing that person or persons in reasonable fear of harm to person or property.
For purposes of this statute, the fear must be a fear that a reasonable person would have under all the circumstances. A “reasonable person” is a reasonable person who is a member of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation, or who has the same gender expression or identity, or the same mental, physical, or sensory disability as the victim.
What are the Penalties?
Hate crime offenses are defined as class C felonies under Washington law. Possible penalties include:
- A maximum five years in state prison, and/or
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Further, the alleged “victim” of the crime can usually file a civil lawsuit against the offender. If successful, the “victim” can obtain compensation for such things as:
- Medical expenses,
- Lost wages,
- Property damage, and
- Pain and suffering.
Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?
Yes. People charged with a hate crime can challenge it with a legal defense. A common defense is for defendants to show that they did not commit an act specifically because of a person’s attributes or make up. But keep in mind that a defendant using this defense may still face criminal charges for the criminal act that he/she did commit.
Further, in cases involving threats, an accused can contest a charge by showing that a “reasonable person” would not have been placed in fear because of the threat. This defense can work to reduce a charge to a lesser offense or get a charge dismissed altogether.
Contact Black & Askerov for Help
While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a hate crime allegation, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on hate crime charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!