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A Racially Motivated Crime Can Lead to Enhanced Penalties

According to reports Iowa law enforcement agencies sent to the FBI, the state had 10 hate crimes incidents in 2018. Of those, 4 were based on race, ethnicity, or ancestry; 2 were based on religion, 2 were based on sexual orientation, and 2 were based on disability.

Iowa has a specific law concerning hate crimes, and a person convicted of a biased motivated offense can face enhanced penalties. In this blog, we'll discuss the statutes concerning hate crimes and the potential punishments associated with them.

Iowa's Hate Crime Definition

Generally, a hate crime is one that is committed because the victim has certain characteristics or belongs to a particular group. Many states across the U.S. have laws concerning these types of offenses, and often impose harsher sentences upon a person convicted. Often, the justification for enhanced penalties is that a crime motivated by bias against a class of people puts not just one individual at risk of harm but a whole community.

In Iowa, the definition of hate crimes is enumerated in Iowa Code 729A.2.

The law provides that a hate crime is one committed against a person or their property because of:

  • Race,
  • Color,
  • Religion,
  • Ancestry,
  • National origin,
  • Political affiliation,
  • Sex,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Age, or
  • Disability

The characteristics upon which the offense is based can be those of the alleged victim or someone the alleged victim associates with.

A hate crime isn't its own separate offense.

Instead, the law applies to the following crimes:

  • Assault,
  • Arson,
  • Criminal mischief, and
  • Trespass

Under the law, for the prosecution to seek enhanced penalties, they must establish that the offense was motivated by bias. Thus the alleged offender's actions must suggest that they targeted the victim or their property because of one of the characteristics listed earlier. For instance, if a person used racial slurs before attempting to physically injure another, the assault may be considered racially motivated. Because race is a protected class under the hate crime law, the person who committed the assault may be penalized harsher than they would have had they not used the slurs. It's important to note that the law does not prohibit using hate speech alone.

Hate Crime Punishments in Iowa

As mentioned before, the hate crime law provides for increased penalties for a person convicted of a bias-motivated offense. In Iowa, that means the offender can be sentenced by one degree higher than the offense committed without bias. To illustrate this, let's return to assault.

The difference in penalties for a biased-related and a non-biased-related assault are as follows:

  • Intending to inflict serious injury on another
    • Non-hate crime: Aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to 2 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $6,250
    • Hate crime: Class "D" felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $7,500
  • Causing bodily injury or mental illness:
    • Non-hate crime: Serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,875
    • Hate crime: Aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to 2 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $6,250
  • Using or displaying a dangerous weapon:
    • Non-hate crime: Aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to 2 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $6,250
    • Hate crime: Class "D" felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $7,500

If you've been charged with a hate crime in Iowa City, reach out to Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger. We'll review your circumstances and develop a defense custom-fit for you.

Call us at (319) 499-5524 or contact us online today.