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. When emotions are high, you need a strong, fearless defense lawyer to protect you.
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 for more severe charges and punishments. 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 most severe punishment by the court. 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?
Under Michigan and federal law, it is a crime to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. Crimes that are 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 takes place, such as a push, grabbing an arm, or spitting.
A threat, when charged as a hate crime, 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?
If someone is convicted of committing ethnic intimidation, he or she can serve up to 2 years in jail or prison, up to 5 years of probation, and as much as 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 make it clear 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 a greater danger.
Defenses to Ethnic Intimidation
The statute requires that for a conviction, there must have been malicious and specific intent to intimidate or harass the victim because of race, religion, or ethnic background. 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 they are afraid to appear insensitive to an alleged victim’s complaint. Lawyers 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 unjust or exaggerated charges being dismissed, regardless of media or social pressure. A reputable and formidable retained criminal expert will fight tooth and nail and have only one goal: help the client. The assistance of a great defense attorney will ensure that anything that can be done will be done as opposed to what a bargain-rate lawyer or general practice lawyer would likely be willing to do.
Michigan Defense Attorneys for Ethnic Intimidation Charges
The Defense Team at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience fighting for clients in all kinds of 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 a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.