In 2016, there were more hate crimes in Chicago than there had been in the previous five years. Instances of anti-Semitic offenses also jumped 85 percent between 2016 and 2017.
At the start of this year, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a revision to the state's law surrounding hate crimes. According to Madigan, the influx in hate crimes in the wake of the 2016 election has necessitated greater protections for victims of such crimes.
What is a hate crime?
A hate crime is a civil rights violation. In Illinois, a hate crime is defined as violent, intimidating or threatening behavior motivated by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ancestry or disability. Hate crimes can be prosecuted at the state level or federal level. Typically, hate crimes receive a more severe penalty than the same crime committed without a hateful motivation.
The new legislation expands the definition of hate crimes. Technology-based attacks-including cyber-stalking as well as intimidating or obscene electronic messaging-now fall under this category.
In addition, the law broadens the penalties a defendant could face for such charges. Under the previous law, an individual accused of a hate crime in Illinois could face felony charges and between one and five years in prison for a first offense. The new law permits the victims of a hate crime to file a separate civil suit against the offender, for which a judge may impose penalties up to $25,000 for each violation.
If you're accused of a hate crime, the penalties you could face are increasingly stringent. More than ever, it's important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney advocating on your behalf.