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Pennsylvania Police Misuse of Hate Crime Law

September 13, 2018

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Pennsylvania police officers have been using our hate crime law to make arrests and to increase the punishment that the defendant receives. This is coming at an unfortunate time, when real hate crimes are being committed at rates not seen in the past few decades. In one instance, the defendant came to the police to report that her TV had been stolen, only to end up in handcuffs herself for disorderly conduct when she became agitated after officers told her to write her statement down. On top of the disorderly conduct charge, she was also slapped with felony assault for hitting an officer in the arm and felony ethnic discrimination for saying “death to all you white ****, I’m going to kill you. . .” If you have been charged with a hate crime, the penalties that you are facing are severe. To fight against the misuse of Pennsylvania’s hate crime statute, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side.

Ethnic Intimidation

Under § 2710, ethnic discrimination occurs when the defendant has committed a crime with malice towards the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, or another individual or group of individuals. The original crime can be any of the following:

  • Any crime related to destruction of property, including arson, and criminal mischief;
  • Any crime related to harassment;
  • Any crime related to assault;
  • Any crime related to terroristic threats;
  • Any crime related to institutional vandalism; and
  • Any crime related to criminal trespass with respect to the individual’s or group’s property.

If the original crime, such as trespassing for example, was classified as a summary offense, ethnic discrimination will be added on as a third degree misdemeanor. In other cases when the underlying crime is a misdemeanor or felony, it will be upgraded to a felony or misdemeanor one degree higher. For example, if the arson was a second degree felony for endangering property, the crime would be reclassified as a first degree felony if ethnic intimidation was found to have been the reason for committing the crime in the first place.

Defense of Ethnic Discrimination Charges

The problem that Pennsylvania police have had with their reasoning for charging unruly defendants with ethnic discrimination is that the defendants did not commit the act out of hatred towards the officer’s race, color, religion, or national origin. This is a necessary aspect of a hate crime. Instead, the defendants lashed out with racial or ethnic slurs for being arrested, which is not a hate crime.

Call a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
In an increasing number of cases, ethnic discrimination is being added to the laundry list of offenses that a defendant faces upon an arrest. If you were arrested by police and simply lashed out verbally with ethnic slurs, that does not necessarily constitute ethnic discrimination pursuant to Pennsylvania’s laws, and that charge should be dropped. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys here at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim will gladly take your call today at (215) 486-0123 for immediate legal assistance.



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