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Hate Crime - It Might Not Be What You Think

When you hear “hate crime,” what comes to mind? Maybe you think of a racially motivated assault and battery, or graffiti on a wall that slurs an entire group of people based on ethnicity or sexual orientation. Hate crimes can be more broad than that, though; in fact, some people aren’t even aware that what they’re doing could be considered a hate crime in Wisconsin. I can’t stress it enough: if you’re being charged with a hate crime, you probably need a Milwaukee criminal defense attorney on your side.

Here’s why.

Penalties Increase for Hate Crimes in Wisconsin

If you commit a crime – let’s use battery as an example – and it seems on the surface that you’ve chosen the victim based on race, sexual orientation, religion, disability or ancestry, or because of their gender, color or national origin, the penalties for the crime are more severe. Lengthier jail sentences and heftier fines are often the result for people convicted of hate crimes.

Violence, like battery, is what most of us associate with hate crimes. Six months ago, a Wisconsin man demanded that two men, who were conversing in Hebrew, speak English before punching them repeatedly. While he could’ve been charged with a hate crime, a Dane County judge said he “caught a break.”

This type of crime does not have to be a violent crime against an individual or group, though. Last fall, a Racine teen was arrested and jailed for shattering local gay couple’s window after heckling them with slurs for a week. Arson, breaking the window of a car or spray-painting messages based on a particular prejudice can also count as hate crimes.

The best thing you can do if you’re charged with a hate crime is to keep your cool – and be quiet. Don’t answer any questions without getting advice from a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer. It’s upsetting to be charged with a crime, but proclaiming your innocence to investigators may not be helpful (in fact, the things you say could be misunderstood and turned around on you later).

Attorney Carlos Gamiño