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What constitutes a hate crime?

It can often be complicated to decide if a crime is really a hate crime or not. As such, it's important to know exactly what constitutes a hate crime and when that title can be used in Pennsylvania.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the issue is with bias. The crime itself may be a typical crime, such as arson or a robbery. However, it then becomes a hate crime if it turns out that the victim was chosen because of something often referenced when talking about discrimination, like:

-- Religion-- Race-- Ethnic origin-- Sexual orientation-- Disability

Essentially, the implication is that the crime was only aimed at that person because the alleged perpetrator already hated the person on a stereotypical basis due to something inherent to that person's identity. It is not just a random crime.

However, the FBI is careful to note that the hate itself has not been outlawed. People are free to hate others if they so choose in the United States. It is when that hate causes them to commit crimes that the problem arises.

It's also worth noting that a crime can be targeted at a person who may be considered the target of a hate crime without it really being a hate crime. For instance, if someone robs a home owned by an African American person, the authorities may think it's a hate crime at first if the accused person is white, but it may turn out that the house was targeted due to other factors, like valuables that were visible through a window, and not because of the person's race.

Those who have been accused of hate crimes have a right to a fair trial.

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Hate Crime- Overview," accessed Jan. 22, 2016

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