October 18th, 2017 by Attorney Dan Carman
Seems we can’t check our news or social media feeds without seeing at least some reference to a hate crime. Increased coverage makes it seem like a new concept, but in fact, the FBI has had a large role in investigating such crimes since the civil rights movement. Generally associated with hot-button social issues such as racial inequality, religious differences, and sexual orientation, the groups that are protected vary from state to state. Here in Kentucky, the law was recently expanded to extend hate-crime protections to police officers, firefighters and emergency medical crews. Unofficially known as the “Blue Lives Matter” bill, its drafting and passage has caused quite a stir.
“Hate” is a strong word, but in and of itself, it is not a crime. Rather, the criminal aspect comes into play when someone’s bias influences them to break the law. According to the FBI, a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” This definition is more inclusive than that of many states. Kentucky, for example, currently does not extend protections to transgender people. This encompasses one of the major criticisms of the bill – that a civil liberties-based law that tackles profession-based bias before touching on a highly publicized civil rights movement seems callous and short-sighted. Opponents of the law have essentially suggested that protecting professions could potentially dilute the current law and could quickly make it too easy to silence people who protest police brutality. Besides, the state already punishes offenders more severely when a police officer is the victim.
Certainly, law enforcement is a dangerous profession that leaves friends and families afraid for the lives of their loved ones every time they head off to work. It has been suggested that targeting and killing an officer because of bias against their occupation is on the rise. Proponents point to the fatally ambushed officers in Louisiana and Texas in 2016 as well as those who have died in the line of duty here in the Bluegrass State. The most recent statistics show that the biggest single cause of the almost 800 deaths of KY officers has been nonaccidental gunfire. So far this year, gunfire deaths among officers has risen 21 percent nationwide and line-of-duty deaths are up 27 percent.
It has also been suggested that the inclusion of first responders as a protected class is a direct reaction to the rise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement and its focus on how officers use force against black citizens. Whether or not that is true, what seems clear is that more and more people are protesting a perceived overdependence on violence — and many are responding with… violence. Are “Blue Lives” (or any other profession-based classes) in sufficient danger to warrant inclusion in the hate crime definition? Where should the line be drawn?
Under the law, a finding that a person committed a hate crime can be used to deny probation and deny or delay parole. If you’ve been accused of a hate crime, or have questions about how the law might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation. Call today at (859) 685-1055 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.