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Federal Hate Crimes

Federal law prohibits U.S. residents from causing a bodily injury to another because of that person’s race, color, religion, or another protected characteristic. Those who are accused of hate crimes face a series of harsh penalties, including life in prison, so if you have been charged with a hate crime, it is crucial to retain an experienced federal crimes attorney who can help protect your rights.

Protected Characteristics

Under federal law, it is unlawful to willfully cause bodily injury to a person or to attempt to cause a bodily injury through the use of a firearm or dangerous weapon because of the person’s actual or perceived:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Religion;
  • National origin;
  • Gender;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Gender identity; or
  • Disability.

Furthermore, to justify prosecution a bodily injury must involve at least one of the following ailments:

  • A cut, abrasion, burn, or bruise;
  • Disfigurement;
  • Physical pain;
  • Illness; or
  • Physical or mental impairment.

An injury that is purely emotional or psychological in nature is not considered a bodily injury.

Establishing Federal Jurisdiction

Defendants convicted of this offense can be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. However, if a death resulted from the defendant’s action or the offense involved any of the following crimes, he or she faces a life sentence:

  • Kidnapping;
  • Attempted kidnapping;
  • Aggravated sexual abuse;
  • An attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse; or
  • Attempted murder.

Regardless of the result of the alleged offense, a person cannot be charged under the federal statute unless the conduct occurred during the travel of the defendant or victim:

  • Across a state line or national border; or
  • While using an instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce.

If a defendant’s conduct does not satisfy either of these requirements, he or she can still be charged under the federal law if he or she:

  • Used an instrumentality of interstate commerce; or
  • Used a dangerous weapon that had traveled in interstate or foreign commerce.

Finally, a defendant can be charged under federal law if his or her conduct:

  • Interfered with economic activity in which the victim was engaged; or
  • Affected interstate or foreign commerce.


The U.S. is prohibited from prosecuting someone under the federal statute until the Attorney General certifies that:

  • The state of Florida does not have jurisdiction over the matter;
  • Florida has asked the federal prosecutor to assume jurisdiction;
  • The verdict handed down in Florida did not vindicate the federal interest in eliminating violence motivated by bias; or
  • Prosecution by the federal government is in the public interest.

Finally, unless the alleged offense involved a death, a person cannot be prosecuted under the federal law if the event did not occur within the last seven years.

Schedule an Appointment With an Experienced Federal Crimes Attorney Today

Federal offenses tend to be prosecuted much more aggressively than their state counterparts and have far harsher consequences, so if you have been charged with a federal crime, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys in Miami at (305) 670-9919 to schedule a free one-on-one consultation with an experienced federal crimes attorney who can explain your legal options.



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