Case Law

What constitutes hate crimes and to what extent can an incident be taken as a hate crime is a highly debatable topic.  In the 1993 case of Wisconsin v. Mitchell, “the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that penalty-enhancement hate crime statutes do not conflict with free speech rights because they do not punish an individual for exercising freedom of expression; rather, they allow courts to consider motive when sentencing a criminal for conduct which is not protected by the First Amendment.”[i]

In the 1993 case of In re Joshua H., it was held that in case of hate crimes, only proof of a specific intent to deprive an individual of a right secured by federal or state law is required.  This does not mean that the prosecution must show that the defendant acted with knowledge of particular provisions of state or federal law, or that the defendant was even thinking in those terms.  It is sufficient if the right is clearly defined and that the defendant intended to invade interests protected by constitutional or statutory authority.[ii]

 [i] Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993)

[ii] In re Joshua H., 13 Cal. App. 4th 1734 (Cal. App. 6th Dist. 1993)


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