Assault against transgender victim prompts hate crime questions

Last month, we included a post about a violent incident that took place in a Rosedale McDonald’s. The Maryland assault case has sparked conversations not only in the state but nationwide as well.

We mentioned in the prior post that the two defendants charged with the assault could face more severe sentencing if a court finds that the assault on the transgender victim was motivated by hate. The idea of hate motivating a crime leaves many scratching their heads, asking, “Aren’t most violent crimes inspired by hate in some form?”

The Baltimore Sun took on that important question and tried to explain why a hate crime is its own category of crime. This post isn’t meant to advocate either way regarding the classification of hate crimes. It’s merely an attempt to explain the legal system’s justification for harsher sentencing in such cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled more than two decades ago that it’s appropriate to treat crimes clearly motivated by bias as special. The reason is because it’s believed that a hate crime is more of a public danger compared to the standard crime.

Hate crimes reportedly tend to cause more public damage, including violent protests. Also, people who share the same “difference” of the supposed victim of a hate crime wind up feeling unsafe in their communities. Sources even equate that fear with the fear that stems from terrorism

In Maryland specifically, a criminal defendant can be charged with a hate crime if their actions were motivated by hate for someone of a certain color, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, national origin. The newest protected group in Maryland is the homeless population.

Getting back to the recent assault against the transgender victim, a Baltimore County grand jury decided this week that there was enough evidence to charge the 18-year-old defendant with a hate crime. The hate crime aspect of the charge could mean 10 more years in prison if she is found guilty of bias-motivated assault.

What do you think about this issue? Should hate crimes be treated differently than other crimes? Do you understand and agree with the system’s logic behind the classification and harsher sentencing?


The Baltimore Sun: “Why hate crimes matter,” 17 May 2011

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