Learn About Hate Crimes

Learn About Hate Crimes

Slivers of seven diverse faces next to each other – Learn more about hate crimes in the Unites States.

What is a hate crime?

What is a hate crime?

In the simplest terms, a hate crime must include both “hate” and a "crime."


The term "hate" can be misleading. When used in a hate crime law, the word "hate" does not mean rage or anger or general dislike. It means bias against persons with specific characteristics that are defined by the relevant law.

Most hate crime laws cover crimes committed because of race, color, and religion. Many also prohibit crimes committed on the basis of perceived or actual disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.


The "crime" in hate crime is often a violent crime, such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or threats to commit such crimes. It may also cover conspiring or asking another person to commit such crimes, even if the crime was never carried out.

Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, people cannot be prosecuted simply for their beliefs. Many people may be very offended or upset about beliefs that are untrue or based upon false stereotypes. However, it is not a crime to express offensive beliefs or to join with others who share such views. On the other hand, the First Amendment does not permit anyone to commit a crime, just because that conduct is rooted in philosophical beliefs.


Hate Crime: A crime motivated by bias against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.

Bias or Hate Incident: Acts of prejudice that do not involve violence, threats, or property damage.


Examples of bias categories


Why have hate crime laws?

Hate crimes have a broader effect than most other kinds of violent crime. A hate crime victimizes not only the immediate target but also impacts every member of the group that the direct victim represents. Hate crimes affect families, communities, and sometimes the entire nation.

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