A 29-year-old D.C. man and his longtime homosexual partner were reportedly viciously attacked just a few blocks from their apartment recently, and now investigators have honed in on hate bias as a motivation for the crime.
D.C. criminal defense lawyers know that no one can deny that hate crimes exist. We can't say whether this situation was motivated by a hate for homosexuals or not. What we do know is that officials are often quick to pull this card, sometimes regardless of the true motivation, because they want the defendant to face the increased penalties that are incurred as a result.
One need only look at the number of hate crimes alleged in the last several years.
The Washington Post reported in 2007 that there were 19 hate crimes reported against homosexuals. In 2011, there were 42. Plus, by this time last year, there were 15 hate crimes reported, and so far this year, there have been 22.
Across the country, there have been a estimated 12,000 over the last decade.
But even gay anti-violence groups acknowledge that this has more to do with an increase of reporting rather than an increase of actual crime.
Again, that's not to say that hate crimes or those motivated by a certain bias don't happen. They do. But law enforcement officials also take advantage of the fact that in 2009, the president signed bill making it a federal crime to assault someone on the basis of his or her sexual orientation or sexual identity.
Such crimes run the gamut of acts, but here are a few examples:
1. A physical attack;
2. A destruction of certain property;
3. Burning of a cross;
5. Harassment, either by phone or electronically;
6. Use of racial slurs;
7. Painting of certain hate symbols, such as a swastika;
8. Verbal abuse;
9. Fireboming a residence, church, business or other gathering place;
It's also in violation of D.C. Code 22-4001 to 22.4004, which mandates increased penalties for crimes committed against someone on the basis of some protected status, such as their race, sexual orientation or religion. In fact, the Metro Police Department even as a D.C. Bias Crimes Task Force, which was founded back in the mid-1990s.
The challenge for prosecutors, however, is in first of all proving that the accused was the one to have committed the crime and secondly that the motivation for carrying out that crime was hatred of a certain group. Usually, this is done using certain electronic communication (which you should never assume to be private) prior to or after the attack. Things like your Facebook page, Twitter account or text messages.
They may also incorporate witness statements regarding any slurs that may have been used prior to, during or after the crime.
It will be up to your defense attorney to prove that the evidence has been taken out of context.