When criminals target victims on the basis of immutable characteristics including, but not limited to, race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation, they harm their victim and put to threat the larger community of which the victim is a part. The prejudice and hate that motivate these crimes are anathema to our state and nation’s fundamental democratic values. A broad coalition of over two dozen religious and civic organizations have come together to support the passage of an Indiana bias crimes statute that addresses crimes in which the victim is selected because of these aforementioned characteristics, or because they are associated with an individual or community sharing any of these characteristics.
What constitutes a “bias crime”?
• A criminal act must take place and must be able to be properly prosecuted.
• The perpetrator of the crime specifically targets an individual or group of individuals because of an actual or perceived bias motivator such as race, religion or national origin.
Why do we need a bias crimes statute?
• Hate crimes happen. According to the FBI, from 2008 to 2014, Indiana cities, towns and universities reported nearly 350 bias crimes. The actual number is likely higher since many major cities, including Indianapolis, failed to report incidents for multiple years.
• The top two reported bias motivators in Indiana are race and religion.
• Indiana is one of only 5 states without a bias crimes statute. (AK, GA, SC, WY)
• The federal government has very limited capacity to prosecute bias crimes in the states.
What you should know and what we’re asking for.
• Bias crimes statutes are Constitutional.
-- The U.S Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Mitchell v. Wisconsin (1993).
-- In this case the Rehnquist Court emphatically stated that Bias Crime statutes punished action not thought and in no way “cooled” or limited free and constitutional speech or religious practices.
• We would like the bill to include three things:
-- Define what constitutes a bias motivated crime in statute and provide for an enhanced or aggravated penalty.
-- Law enforcement education to know how to recognize and react to bias crimes.
-- Enhanced reporting requirements that will for the first time require Indiana data to be reported to the FBI.