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Federal Hate Crimes


In 1968 Congress passed the first federal hate crime statute, which made it unlawful to use or threaten to use force to interfere with another person because of his or her race, religion, national origin, or color. If you have questions about what a violation of federal hate crime law entails, you should consult with a federal crime attorney who can address your concerns.

Hate Crime Statutes  

There are actually a number of different federal statutes that make up U.S. hate crime, including:

  • The Shepard Byrd Act, which makes it unlawful to purposely cause bodily injury, or to attempt to do so because of a person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, or if the offense affected interstate or foreign commerce, a person’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability;
  • The Criminal Interference with the Right to Fair Housing Act, which makes it a crime to use or threaten to use force to interfere with someone else’s housing rights because of a protected characteristic;
  • The Church Arson Prevention Act, which prohibits the intentional defacement, destruction, or damage of religious property because of its religious nature if the crime was committed because of the race, ethnic characteristics, or color of the people associated with the religion; and
  • The Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights Act, which makes it a crime to use or threaten to use force to interfere with someone’s participation in public education, jury service, travel, employment, or the use of public accommodations because of a protected characteristic.

The enforcement of all of these laws falls under the purview of the federal courts, but a hate crime charge can only be filed in federal court by the Civil Rights Division if:

  • The state where the alleged offense occurred does not have jurisdiction over the case;
  • The state has asked that the federal government assume jurisdiction in the matter;
  • The verdict obtained pursuant to the state charges didn’t vindicate the federal interest in eliminating bias-based violence; or
  • Prosecution by the federal government is in the public’s best interest and is necessary to secure justice.

Except in these circumstances, most hate crimes will be tried in state court.

Potential Penalties  

The penalties for committing a hate crime depend in large part on the nature of the offense. For instance, if someone allegedly causes bodily injury to another because of his or her race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, or national origin, that individual could face up to ten years imprisonment. However, a person can only be convicted of this offense in federal court if the conduct occurred during the course of or as a result of the travel of the victim or the defendant:

  • Across state lines or a national border; or
  • Via the use of a facility or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce.

Prosecutors may also need to demonstrate that the defendant used a weapon that traveled in interstate or foreign commerce or that the conduct in question interfered with commercial or economic activity.

Contact Our Federal Crime Legal Team Today  

Please call 305-670-9919 or send us an online message to schedule a free consultation with dedicated Miami federal crime attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. today.


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Miami Criminal Attorneys

9130 South Dadeland Blvd
Miami, Florida 33156

Telephone: 305-670-9919
Fax: 305-670-9299

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