July 12th, 2017 by Attorney Dan Carman
A bill signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin in March and taking effect beginning in July will make it a hate crime to harm individuals in certain occupations. What has informally been termed the “Blue Lives Matter Law” will be applied July 1 and is intended to make crimes against police, EMS workers and firefighters a hate crime. Along with Louisiana, Kentucky is the second state to sign into law a bill adding stiffer penalties for crimes against first responders.
In Kentucky, when an offense is given status of “hate crime,” additional and stricter penalties may be imposed. The status itself is determined by the judge in the case, who must record a written finding of fact for the record. If the defendant’s crime qualifies, Kentucky State Statutes provide that:
- The finding that a hate crime was a primary factor in the commission of the crime by the defendant may be utilized by the sentencing judge as the sole factor for denial of probation, shock probation, conditional discharge, or other form of nonimposition of a sentence of incarceration.
- The finding by the sentencing judge that a hate crime was a primary factor in the commission of the crime by the defendant may be utilized by the Parole Board in delaying or denying parole to a defendant.
What Constitutes a Hate Crime
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a hate crime is defined as “A criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.”
The National Institute of Justice states that the purpose of original hate crime legislation was to protect minorities, including Jews, Asians and African Americans in the 1980s. Of the 49 states to currently have hate crime statutes, Washington and Oregon were the first, passing laws in 1981.
As a result of the definition that has been in place for several years, critics of the bill suggest that because the new Kentucky law protects an occupation, as opposed to a person, property or society, the law should not be applicable.
Articles from The Washington Examiner and The Associated Press, among other journalism outlets, have reported extensively on the new law. The Examiner quotes Republican State Representative Kevin Bratcher of Louisville, who filed the initial bill, as to the necessity of the law: “Police and firefighters do a very important job for us in society, and I believe if you’re going to mess with them for doing their job you’re going to get the full brunt of Kentucky law,” said Bratcher. “I want to give judges all the tools they need when it comes to punishment for those who would hurt our first responders.”
However, critics, including representatives from the group Black Lives Matter, founded essentially to protest what they consider excessive police violence against African Americans and little accountability in serving justice to the police responsible, disagree. They suggest the law was created solely as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and summarize arguments by suggesting police are already too well-protected without additional legislation.
Nonetheless, the law is in place and does not appear to face any major challenges in the near future.
Dan Carman is a criminal defense attorney in Lexington, KY who is experienced in representing those who have been accused of crimes in the Bluegrass. He has successfully represented countless individuals and will work on your behalf for the best possible outcome. Call us today at (859) 685-1055 to find out how we can help you.