Laws and Policies

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Federal Laws and Statutes

The Department of Justice enforces federal hate crimes laws that cover certain crimes committed on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The Department of Justice began prosecuting federal hate crimes cases after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The information below explains current federal hate crimes laws.

Federal Hate Crime Laws

Federal Hate Crime Policies

State Laws, Codes, and Statutes

Most states and U.S. territories have hate crime statutes that are enforced by state and local law enforcement in state and local courts. Hate crime laws in states and territories vary widely across jurisdictions.

  • Bias motivations: Different jurisdictions define hate crimes to include different bias motivations.
  • Penalty enhancements: Laws in some jurisdictions increase the sentence for crimes motivated by identified factors.
  • Data collection: Some jurisdictions require collecting data on hate crimes. Data provides better transparency into crimes that are occurring and can help states allocate support and resources to communities in greatest need.

Even if a state or territory does not have a hate crimes law, hate crimes can still be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Updated January 27, 2023

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