Under Texas law, the penalties for some crimes become more severe if the crimes are committed for the purposes of hate or intimidation or if they target a specific group of people based on their status. These criminal offenses are commonly referred to as hate crimes. If prosecutors determine that a criminal offense is a hate crime based on bias or discrimination, then it falls into a special classification that can result in enhanced penalties.
Whomever is the trier of fact in a case, either a judge or a jury, can make the affirmative finding required for this penalty enhancement to a crime under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Sec. 42.014. The trier of fact must determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally selected the individual against whom he or she committed the crime or intentionally selected the individual’s property that was damaged or affected, based on the defendant’s bias or prejudice against a group identified by race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference.
Some types of criminal offenses that may be classified as hate crimes include: murder, assault, arson, harassment, stalking, and vandalism. Hate crimes tend to be violent in nature. They may target one particular individual or a general group of people with a certain characteristic, such as race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, gender, age, or disability.
Texas Penal Code Sec. 12.47 provides for enhanced penalties for any criminal offense that is committed because of bias or prejudice. If there is an affirmative finding pursuant to Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Sec. 42.014 made during trial of any criminal offense other than a first-degree felony or a Class A misdemeanor, then the punishment for the offense increases to the punishment prescribed for the next highest category of offense. If the offense is Class A misdemeanor and such a finding is made, then the minimum sentence of incarceration increases to 180 days.
At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you from hate crime charges and any other criminal charges that you may be facing. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time attempting to handle legal matters on your own; contact our office as soon as you are charged with a criminal offense so that we can provide you with the help that we need.