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"This Is My Damn Block": Hate Crime Charges in Illinois

 Posted on November 27, 2014 in Criminal defense lawyer

hate crime charges in Illinois, Rolling Meadows criminal attorney"This is my damn block!" Along with a string of other expletives, these were the last words that a 24-year-old woman heard when she was walking home with her friend on a warm summer night in 2013.

Immediately thereafter, a young man and about ten other people savagely beat the two women. The 24-year-old woman suffered a broken rib along with serious cuts and abrasions. Last month, the lead attacker pleaded guilty to two counts each of hate crimes charges and aggravated burglary. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Local authorities aggressively prosecute hate crimes. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has taken 44 people to court under the hate crimes statute since 2011.

Hate Crimes

During this crackdown, criminal defense attorneys have defended clients in a wide range of circumstances, from attacks on individuals to acts of vandalism against groups of people.

A first offense under the hate crimes statute is a Class 4 Felony; certain aggravating circumstances can push it to a Class 3 Felony. The wording is also quite broad. The prosecutor must prove that race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or some other status was a factor in the crime, and not that such motivation was the only factor or even the primary factor. At the same time, all crimes against people in a protected class are not prosecuted as hate crimes, because there are a number of defenses against such charges.

One strategy is to negotiate with prosecutors to have the charges dropped. A hate crime is a piggyback crime, because no one is ever charged with a hate crime by itself. The state’s attorney often agrees to drop enhancements and piggyback crimes in exchange for a guilty plea to a lesser sentence.

Like all other offenses, hate crimes must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Unless the defendant uttered a homosexual slur or racial epithet during the crime, there may not be enough evidence to convince a jury that the defendant did commit a hate crime. If the only evidence is that the crime took place in a certain area of town, the case is even weaker.

Get an Effective Criminal Defense

A hate crime is a very serious charge, but there are a number of effective defenses or negotiations available that can work to your benefit. If you have been charged with a hate crime or other crime, call the experienced Northbrook criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Matthew R. Gebhardt, P.C.

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