Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes and Bias-Motivated Conduct

As in all states in the United States, hate crimes and other bias-motivated criminal conduct are taken very seriously in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A Massachusetts hate crime is a crime where the defendant’s action towards a particular victim is based on the fact that they are a member of a protected group. Pursuant to M.G.L c. 265, § 39, there are three elements to a hate crime: the defendant must have committed a traditional criminal offense such as assault and battery, the defendant must have acted with the intent to intimidate the individual because they were in a particular protected group, and lastly the individual who was the target of this crime was chosen by the defendant based on their gender identity, disability, national origin, sexual orientation, religion or race.

Other bias-motivated conduct, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 12, §§ 11H, 11I, 11J and enforced by the Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) include violations to the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (“MCRA”), as well as other constitutional rights violations. This statue also enforces the protection of residents’ as well as visitors’ rights to use public transportation and public streets and enjoy their basic rights free from any bias-related threats, coercion or intimidation which may interfere with that individual’s civil rights. There are three elements to the crime of bias-motivated conduct in Massachusetts: the defendant partook in coercion, intimidation or threats, the coercion, intimidation or threats were done with the intent to interfere with the individual’s rights, and lastly, the actions of the defendant were sparked by his or her bias towards the victim for being a member of a protected activity or group. If you or someone you know has been accused of a hate crime or bias motivated conduct, it is vital that you contact a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer to assist you with your hate crimes case. The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy is a Boston based criminal defense firm which can prepare a winning defense strategy to help you achieve the most favorable outcome for your case.

If the police have been contacted about a hate crime allegation the person complained of will likely be prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office in an aggressive and one-sided manner. There are some cases where a defendant may be prosecuted in civil court in addition to criminal charges or under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.

In terms of bias-motivated conduct, Massachusetts law considers specific definitions of what “threat,” “intimidation,” and “coercion” mean.  A “threat” must be conduct that is done with the intent to make the victim feel fear that they may be injured or harmed. When the defendant acts with the intention to compel the victim to act in a certain way, this is “intimidation.” Lastly, “coercion” is defined as conduct by the defendant when he or she uses either moral or physical force to make the victim do something against their will that they would have not done if not for the defendant’s actions. These definitions exist to distinguish free standing offensive speech or symbols that might be perfectly legal. For bias-motivated crimes that are illegal under the MCRA, the AGO may be able to obtain an injunction against the perpetrator as well as additional fines up to $10,000 and a maximum of 2.5 years in a house of correction, or a maximum of 10 years in prison if the bias-motivated conduct resulted in bodily injury.

Due to the fact that hate crimes and bias-motivated conduct are serious criminal offenses in the United States, it is likely the Commonwealth will pursue a sophisticated and aggressive argument against you. You will need an accomplished Massachusetts criminal defense attorney to protect your freedom and rights. If you are charged with a hate crime or bias-motivated conduct, you can rely on the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy to steer you through the intricate and complicated criminal justice system. Patrick J. Murphy, Esq. is a successful criminal defense attorney with decades of experience in the Boston area and Massachusetts. For a free and confidential legal assessment of your case or for further information, please call our office at (617) 367-0450 or complete the contact form on our website.

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