Experienced Denton Texas Hate Crimes Lawyer
Hate crimes in the United States have now risen to their highest level since the government began collecting this information. Consequently, state and federal law enforcement and prosecutors across the country are expanding and pursuing hate crime laws to send a strong message that hate will not be tolerated.
In Texas as well as on the federal front, we are seeing growing pressure for these kinds of crimes to be severely prosecuted. While hate crimes charges are an enhancement to other criminal charges, they can have serious implications for those who are convicted both in terms of added criminal penalties and personal life consequences.
If you have been charged with a hate crime in Denton, Texas, you need an aggressive legal advocate in your corner who knows the criminal justice system and understands how to defend against serious hate crime charges. As a former prosecutor, Brent D. Bowen, Esq. understands how these types of charges are prosecuted and offers skilled legal defense options.
What is Considered a Hate Crime in Texas?
In 2001, hate crime legislation was signed into law in Texas under the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. Under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 42.014, if someone has committed a crime against another because of a bias or prejudice against that individual based on their
- National origin
- Sexual preference
that crime may be prosecuted as a hate crime. Crimes that may be elevated to a hate crime can include:
- Verbal assault
- Physical assault
- Aggravated assault
In other words, most crimes motivated by prejudice or bias can be elevated to a hate crime, leading to harsher penalties and punishment if convicted.
Hate Crime Penalties in Texas
If you have been convicted of a hate crime in Texas, you were also convicted of other crimes that carry their own penalties. A hate crime conviction is an enhancement to those other criminal charges. Consequently, the penalty for a hate crime will be dependent on the original criminal charges.
Section 12.47 of the Texas Penal Code sets out this enhancement. With a hate crime conviction, penalties will be upgraded based on the original crime. For offenses other than a Class A Misdemeanor or First Degree Felony, the original offense penalties are enhanced to the next higher category. This will increase penalties in terms of fines, jail or prison time, and other penalties.
Someone who is convicted of a hate crime in Texas can face criminal penalties and personal consequences, including
- Jail time
- A prison sentence
- Mandatory education or rehabilitation
- Loss of freedom and personal rights
- Loss of a job
- Loss of their reputation
- Impact on their family
Defenses Used in Hate Crimes
Although the courts have been pressured to prosecute these crimes strenuously, most hate crimes have not led to convictions. The problem with the prosecution of hate crimes is the inherent difficulty in proving intent beyond a reasonable doubt. This is often key to a defense strategy. Because proof of bias must exist for a hate crime conviction, it will be important to argue that this prejudice did not exist and that the actions were not motivated by any bias.
Hate crime defenses should also consider options such as self-defense, mistaken identity, mistake of fact, unconstitutional arrest, entrapment, or the execution of the act while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident and the state’s evidence, a legal defense strategy will vary with the defendant.
Getting Skilled Legal Advice in Texas
If you have been charged with a hate crime in Texas, it is critical to get the guidance of a skilled hate crimes lawyer in Denton, TX to understand what evidence the state has and ensure that all legal defense strategies are carefully considered. When you are facing criminal charges, you want the best quality defense possible. Contact the Law Office of Brent D. Bowen. We are available around the clock at (940) 222-2488 or contact us through our online form.