Oklahoma has a hate crime law concerning bias-motivated acts committed against persons because of their membership in a protected class. Hate crimes are often violent offenses but do not always involve physical contact with another person. They can also include threats of violence or actions that incite or produce violence.
The hate crime law does not establish offenses separate from those found in other sections of the Oklahoma Statutes. Instead, it provides that enhanced penalties can be imposed when a person engages in a traditional crime but targets a specific individual or group based on their characteristics.
What Is a Hate Crime?
Generally, a hate crime is an offense motivated by bias. A person suspected of committing a hate crime is alleged to have targeted the victim because of some physical or personal characteristics that the offender has animosity for.
Oklahoma’s hate crime law, found in O.S. § 21-850, concerns malicious and intentional conduct aimed at persons in protected classes.
The protected classes include:
- National origin, and
As mentioned earlier, hate crimes are not separate offenses. Typically, they are acts of violence such as assault and battery, vandalism, burglary, or robbery. However, they have the additional element of bias.
Under the state’s hate crime law, prohibited acts include maliciously or intentionally intimidating, harassing, or inciting violence against another person by:
- Attempting to cause or causing harm against them;
- Damaging, destroying, or defacing their property;
- Threatening to hurt them or their property, and it’s likely such acts could occur;
- Transmitting messages through phone, computer, or other electronic means;
- Publishing or distributing messages or materials.
Examples of hate crimes include:
- Throwing a rock at someone and yelling out a racial slur.
- Threatening to harm someone because of the color of their skin.
- Spitting in someone’s face and telling them to go back to their home country or else they’re dead.
Separate hate crimes laws exist because these offenses can affect more than just the victim. Because they are directed at an individual based on certain characteristics, the entire group of people in that protected class can be in danger. In other words, hate crimes endanger families, members of the community, and people across the nation as a whole.
State, city, county, and town law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma are required to report incidents of hate crimes to the Oklahoma State Bureau of investigation to track these offenses.
- Simple assault: 5
- Robbery: 1
- Larceny: 1
- Intimidation: 23
- Vandalism: 10
- Burglary: 1
- Aggravated assault: 2
What Are the Penalties for Hate Crimes?
In Oklahoma, a hate crime is a misdemeanor or felony. It carries penalties separate from and in addition to the underlying offense. For instance, if a person is accused of aggravated assault and battery committed because of the alleged victim’s skin color, the individual can face up to 5 years in prison for the assault and battery, plus an additional number of years for the hate crime.
The term of incarceration and fine for bias-motivated offenses depend on the actor’s criminal history:
- First hate crime violation (misdemeanor)
- Up to 1 year in county jail and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Second or subsequent hate crime violation (felony)
- Up to 10 years in prison and/or
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Reach Out to the Law Offices of Keith J. Nedwick, P.C.
In a hate crime case, the prosecutor must prove that the offense was motivated by bias. They might rely on evidence that they believe suggests that the alleged victim was targeted because of membership in a protected class, but that might not have been the case. Those accused of hate crimes need an attorney on their side who is ready to examine the facts and uncover the truth, seeking to help their clients avoid or minimize enhanced penalties.
Our Norman team is prepared to stand up for you and be your champion throughout your case.
Schedule a consultation by calling us at (866) 590-8173 or submitting an online contact form today.