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What Happens If You're Charged with a Hate Crime in Utah?

Often, hate crimes are considered more serious than non-biased-based offenses because they make the community fear harm. Members of minority groups or protected classes may feel that an attack on one is a potential attack on all. As such, many states, Utah included, have laws concerning hate crimes. Generally, these statutes impose upon the defendant harsher penalties than would have been meted out had they not targeted the person because of certain identifying factors.

What Utah's Hate Crime Law Addresses

Utah's hate crime law is found in Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-203.14. It provides that a hate crime enhancement may be added to a criminal charge if the defendant harmed the victim or destroyed their property because of actual or perceived membership in a particular class. The law applies whether the personal attributes were associated with the victim themselves or a person with whom the victim had a relationship.

According to the statute, personal attributes include:

  • Age,
  • Ancestry,
  • Disability,
  • Ethnicity,
  • Familial status,
  • Gender identity,
  • Homelessness,
  • Marital status,
  • Matriculation,
  • National origin,
  • Political expression,
  • Race,
  • Religion,
  • Sex,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Service in the Armed Forces, or
  • Status as an emergency responder or peace officer

A hate crime is not a specific, chargeable offense. Instead, it allows for a sentence enhancement for an underlying crime. For instance, suppose Marty intentionally kicked Karen, causing bodily injury. In this case, he could be charged with assault.

Now let's say before the assault, Marty shouted racial slurs at Karen. If he is convicted with a hate crime enhancement, he could face longer incarceration and higher fines than he would have in the first scenario.

The Enhanced Penalties for Hate Crimes

If a person is found guilty of an offense motivated by bias, they may be sentenced at one degree higher than the underlying offense or with a longer minimum or maximum term of incarceration.

In Utah, hate crime enhancements are as follows:

  • A class C misdemeanor becomes a class B misdemeanor
    • Jail time goes from a maximum of 90 days to a maximum of 6 months
    • Fines increase from a maximum $750 of to a maximum of $1,000
  • A class B misdemeanor becomes a class A misdemeanor
    • Jail time increases from a maximum of 6 months to a maximum of 364 days
    • Fines go from a maximum of $1,000 to a maximum of $2,500
  • A class A misdemeanor becomes a third-degree felony
    • Incarceration goes from a maximum of 364 days in jail to a maximum of 5 years in prison
    • Fines increase from a maximum of $2,500 to $5,000
  • A third-degree felony has a minimum term of imprisonment of 1 year, in contrast to no minimum
  • A second-degree felony has a minimum term of imprisonment of 2 years, in contrast to 1 year
  • For a first-degree felony, a judge may consider the defendant's motivation as an aggravating factor

If you've been charged with a crime in Salt Lake City, contact Lokken & Associates, P.C. at (801) 829-9783 to discuss your case.