St. Mary's Law Journal


Problems of bias-motivated violence plague our nation and threaten to erase the progress made during the civil rights era. Recent statistical surveys conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicate the number of hate crimes has generally increased over the past few years. In 1996, over 11,000 individuals were victims of hate crimes—five percent more than reported the previous year. Hate crimes are not only injurious to the individual victim, but also fracture surrounding communities and create disharmony among citizens. As a result, some states implemented legislation in the 1980s to deter hate-motived crimes and a few states have permitted the punishment to be elevated when the crime is based on gender, sexual orientation, or disability. But many states continue to overlook hate crime offenses and refuse to enact any remedial legislation. Congress has taken legislative steps to address hate crime and is looking at implementing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999 (HCPA). Previously the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act of 1994 worked to elevate certain hate crimes in 18 U.S.C. § 245, but the focus of § 245 is on race-based crime and does not adequately cover hate crimes focused on sexual orientation or disability. The HCPA would include less burdensome jurisdictional requirements for crimes based on sexual orientation, gender, and disability. Congress has also remedied possible federalism concerns by incorporating a required certification from the Attorney General that will likely survive constitutional challenge. The HCPA provides further deterrence against hate crimes and reiterates Congress' desire to drive out hate-based violence threatening to destroy America's communities.


St. Mary's University School of Law