Hate Crimes Michigan Defense Attorneys
Anyone can be a victim of a crime. When there are allegations of racial or religious insults or motives, police and prosecutors can go overboard in charging a defendant with a hate crime.
Hate Crimes Defense in Michigan
As a society, we want to protect members of our community from being victimized based on race, religion, or ethnicity. Because offenses with a “hate” motive tend to be extraordinarily harmful, Michigan and federal law provide more severe charges and punishments. When emotions are high, and there is no room for false promises and a weak defense, you need a strong, fearless hate crimes defense attorney to protect you.
In some cases, victims falsely claim that they were targeted because of race, religion, or ethnicity to manipulate the police into charging a more serious offense. On the other hand, a person who does victimize someone because of race, religion, or ethnicity should not automatically receive the court’s most severe punishment. An influential lawyer may get the court to focus more on rehabilitation at sentencing and less on punishment.
Every situation has a back story, and every person is constitutionally entitled to a defense. The attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have an unparalleled track record of success defending clients charged with serious felony and misdemeanor charges. Regardless of your particular situation, we can find a way to help you.
What is ethnic intimidation? Is it a hate crime?
Under Michigan and federal law, it is a crime to intimidate or harass another person because of their race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. Crimes committed because of or connected to one of those characteristics are subject to additional charges or a more severe sentence. Examples include:
- Causing unconsented physical contact with the victim;
- Damaging or destroying the real or personal property of the victim; or
- Threatening by words or actions to do either of the above where it is reasonable to believe it may be done.
The physical contact requirement is usually a battery (unconsented physical touching), either with a weapon or not. Any touching will suffice to make the law apply, even if no injury occurs, such as pushing, grabbing an arm, or spitting.
When charged as a hate crime, a threat does not require actual touching. Laws punishing words or speech implicate a defendant’s 1st Amendment right to free speech. In most cases, courts have denied defenses based on the 1st Amendment. These arguments are legally complex, and only the most experienced and skilled lawyers have routine success with defending clients based on Constitutional rights.
What is the penalty in Michigan for ethnic intimidation and hate crimes? How can a defense attorney help?
If someone is convicted of committing ethnic intimidation, they can serve up to 2 years in jail or prison, 5 years of probation, and a $5,000.00 fine.
The ethnic intimidation law is unusual in that it also includes a specific provision authorizing a civil lawsuit for money. Most criminal statutes provide only for jail and fines, even in cases where a serious personal injury has been inflicted and a civil suit is likely. The legislature wanted to clarify that victims should seriously consider suing for any damages, and such damages can include money for emotional distress.
In cases of false allegations, the motive for making fake claims may be to get money. The civil penalty provision of hate crimes legislation makes false or exaggerated allegations more dangerous.
Defenses to Ethnic Intimidation
The statute requires that there must have been malicious and specific intent to intimidate or harass the victim because of race, religion, or ethnic background for a conviction. If physical contact or property damage occurred by accident, the defense would be that the defendant did not have the necessary intent. If a defendant had been overheard making racial or ethnic disparaging comments or jokes to friends, a “victim” might have felt intimidated or harassed. However, if the defendant did not intend for the “victim” to hear or be aware of the comments, there is not sufficient intent for a conviction. Judges and juries may presume an evil intent under such circumstances, and it will take a very persuasive defense to convince them otherwise.
Media Scrutiny and High-Profile Cases
As can be imagined, these cases are frequently extensively covered by the media. Reporters can ensure high ratings by villainizing someone accused of a hate crime. Sensationalism sells advertising. Many lawyers are intimidated by media attention and afraid to appear insensitive to an alleged victim’s complaint. Hate crimes defense attorneys handling these cases can feel like they are personally on trial, and prosecutors and judges may pressure the attorney to quickly resolve the case or “do the right thing” by manipulating the client into a quick, unjust resolution.
An astute criminal defense attorney would be able to spot potential defenses, and if they are not afraid to win, they will be willing to argue the case accordingly. A strong defense may result in the dismissal of unjust or exaggerated charges, regardless of media or social pressure. A reputable and formidable retained criminal expert will fight tooth and nail and have only one goal: to help the client. A great defense attorney’s assistance will ensure that anything that can be done will be done instead of what a bargain-rate lawyer or general practice lawyer would likely be willing to do.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a hate crime?
A hate crime is any misdemeanor or felony offense, such as assault, larceny, stalking, or anything else, that is intentionally committed, at least in part, based on the victim’s race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.
What is racial intimidation?
Fear can be utilized to exploit a different racial group via force or greater power. Physical or psychological intimidation, police brutality, unequal treatment under the law, or indoctrination can all be used to attain this goal. Racial intimidation keeps racial disparities and exploitation alive, leading to passivity or provocative behavior.
Is intimidation a crime in Michigan?
Yes, depending on the severity of the intimidation, it might be criminal. Without a race, color, religion, gender, or national origin component, intimidation is generally enforced through Michigan’s stalking laws. The potential punishment is enhanced if the criminal intimidation is based on a protected status.
Can you legally fight someone in Michigan?
A person in Michigan can legally defend themselves or others from the threat of an imminent assault or battery, using only reasonably necessary force. You cannot “fight” someone based on words, regardless of how offensive or for any other purpose other than valid self-defense. If you were in a fight and question whether you have a valid defense, it is best to consult right away with a qualified, experienced hate crimes defense attorney.
Michigan Defense Attorneys for Ethnic Intimidation Charges
The Defense Team at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has decades of experience fighting for clients in politically sensitive and high-pressure cases. We will not be intimidated by any outside pressure because we are laser-focused on doing what it takes to help our clients. Charges such as these can be dismissed and thrown out of court, but only if defended intelligently, aggressively, and appropriately. We have a well-earned reputation for providing the highest quality defense and aggressive representation while showing empathy and individualized care for each client.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.