House Approves Federal Hate Crime Expansion Bill

Today, on a party-line vote, the House of Representatives approved the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a.k.a. the Matthew Shepard Act. The bill, which President Obama supports, would add offenses committed "because of" a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability to the list of "hate crimes" that can be prosecuted under federal law. It also would remove a provision limiting such prosecutions to cases where the victim was participating in a "federally protected" activity such as education or voting. The new federal nexus requirement is so laughably accommodating that it might as well have been left out. A violent crime against a victim selected for one of the mentioned reasons can be federalized if it "occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim...across a State line or national border"; if the defendant "uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce"; if "the defendant employs a firearm, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce"; if the crime "interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct"; or if the crime "otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce."

Aside from the usual problems with hate crime laws, which punish people for their ideas by making sentences more severe when the offender harbors politically disfavored antipathies, this bill federalizes another huge swath of crimes that ought to be handled under state law, creating myriad opportunities for double jeopardy by another name. The changes would make it much easier for federal prosecutors who are displeased by an acquittal in state court to try, try again, as they did in the Rodney King and Crown Heights riot cases. They simply have to argue that the crime was committed "because of" the victim's membership in one of the listed groups. As four members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission point out in a recent letter opposing the bill (noted by Hans Bader), that description could apply to a wide range of ordinary crimes:

Rapists are seldom indifferent to the gender of their victims. They are virtually always chosen "because of" their gender. A robber might well steal only from women or the disabled because, in general, they are less able to defend themselves. Literally, they are chosen "because of" their gender or disability."

If all rape and many other crimes that do not rise to the level of a "hate crime" in the minds of ordinary Americans are covered by LLEHCPA, then prosecutors will have "two bites at the apple" for a very large number of crimes.

The text of the bill is here. I criticized the proposed expansion of federal hate crime law in a 1998 column. More on that subject here. I explored the more general problems with hate crime laws in a 1992 Reason article. I slammed the Rodney King and Crown Heights do-overs here and here. In 2004 William Anderson and Candice Jackson decried the federalization of crime.

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  • VM||

    YEAH. Well I hate crime, too.

    oooh. that. /kicks pebble

  • JB||

    I'm going to state here and now that any crime I might commit in the future will be a love crime.

    I also state that I will not do a day of prison time until Spitzer serves time.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Hate crime legislation is one of the true banalities of the left. How future liberals will blush (I hope) and this righteous and vicious nonsense.

  • ed||

    Barney Frank was eloquent during the debate.
    It was all about people like him, he repeated over and over.
    I almost cried.

  • hmm||

    Is hating this bill a hate crime?

    Is it still legal to hate stupid?

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    I'm gay and a masochist. Am I now guilty of "hate criming" myself?

    It looks like Res Life folks took over the House of Representatives...

    Deutschland, Deutschland über alles

    [no offense to Germans, of course]

  • Anonymous||

    When offense is outlawed, only outlaws will offend.

  • Anonymous||

    How future liberals will blush (I hope) and this righteous and vicious nonsense.

    Yeah, it couldn't possibly be a symptom of the fundamental rot in the philosphy of government as the collective-given tool to properly arrange society. We just have to HOPE their minds will CHANGE.

  • Paul||

    I hate this legislation...

  • Paul||

    It looks like Res Life folks took over the House of Representatives...

    Deutschland, Deutschland über alles

    [no offense to Germans, of course]


    HATE CRIME! HATE CRIME!

  • Paul||

    Check this out, from Wikipedia:

    A "hate crime" can take two forms: "hate crime" generally refers to criminal acts which are seen to have been motivated by hatred of one or more of the listed conditions. The second kind is hate speech, which is speech defined as crime. While hate crimes are rarely debated [emphasis mine], the hate speech concept is controversial, as criminalizing speech can be seen as impugning freedom of speech.



    Methinks either a [citation needed] tag is appropriate, or a rewrite of that entire section is in order.

  • Mad Max||

    'Aside from the usual problems with hate crime laws, which punish people for their ideas by making sentences more severe when the offender harbors politically disfavored antipathies, this bill federalizes another huge swath of crimes that ought to be handled under state law, creating myriad opportunities for double jeopardy by another name.'

    Blah, blah, blah - in other words, Reason magazine is homophobic, and they are complicit in the murder of Matthew Shephard. Why else would you be in favor or murder, assault and rape?

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    Mad Max -- I am gay and I am opposed to hate crime laws. Does that make me "selfphobic"?

    Or pehaps, while I abhor crimes of physical assault as crimes against personal sovreignty, I also abhor fascist thought control, whether it originates from narrow-minded Republicans or narrow-minded Democrats.

  • Mad Max||

    I need to figure out how to put sarcasm markers in my posts.

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    Indeed, you do.

    Perhaps Reason can create a "sarcasm" tag since libertarians are about the most sarcastic people I know. And, because I jump at any chance to pounce all over a potential lurking, self-righteous leftie with the fascist label.

    Apologies for the pounce. It wasn't a hate crime, I swear.

  • Fists of Furry||

    And speaking of the House, I just heard Nancy Pelosi say -- as she was holding up a big prop picture of one of her bullshit grandkids -- that the House's budget bill won't be raising the national debt and as such won't have to be paid by "our grandchildren. That's what the Bush administration did. Our bill sends that in the opposite direction."

    Can I sue her for fraud?

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    Charge her with a "hate crime" against intelligent human beings.

  • Love Crimes||

    "It looks like Res Life folks took over the House of Representatives... "

    Thread winner.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Apologies for the pounce. It wasn't a hate crime, I swear.

    Tell it the federal judge.

  • Love Crimes||

    "Mad Max -- I am gay and I am opposed to hate crime laws. Does that make me "selfphobic"?"

    It's called internalized homophobia.

  • Love Crimes||

    "I need to figure out how to put sarcasm markers in my posts"

    Oh no, your writing is so good that it's unmistacable. (s)

  • Love Crimes||

    Unmistacable? Damn!

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

    Barney Frank was eloquent during the debate. It was all about people like him, he repeated over and over.

    Who says only mortgage bankers are selfish pricks?

    [No offense to mortgage bankers or pricks, of course. Because being compared to Barney Frank might be the "hate crime" of all "hate crimes."]

  • ||

    Well, I can't wait for Radley's first stories about how this new legislation is being used for double jeopardy/to railroad someone/against drug suspects. Nope, can't wait.

  • BeesInTheBrain||

    Well as the ACLU says, "this bill doesn't punish bigotry, as ugly as those beliefs are."
    and "the ACLU has fought for this legislation as protecting both civil rights and free speech and association".

    Well unless they commit a crime then it's a good bill because "The provision does not impede prosecutions." Can't have civil liberties standing in the way of prosecutions now can we.

    ACLU Link -- House Hate Crimes Bill Punishes Violence, Not Bigotry

  • MNG||

    I'm against hate crimes legislation. The mens rea for the crime is a political/philosophical stance, which should not be criminalized.

  • MJ||

    Am I mistaken, or did it not come out that Shephard was not killed for being gay, but was the best target of convenience for a guy determined to do evil to someone that night?

    If so, what does this bill have to do with Matthew Shephard?

  • jtuf||

    Alan Vanneman | April 29, 2009, 6:11pm | #

    Hate crime legislation is one of the true banalities of the left. How future liberals will blush (I hope) and this righteous and vicious nonsense.



    Nah, 30 years from now, liberals will just point to hate crime legislation as an example of thought policing from the "bad old days" that they have "progressed beyond". After all, it's not like liberals apologize for the dixicrats. Part of the alure of liberalism is the ability to claim perfection by wiping the slate clean every election season.

  • MNG||

    "After all, it's not like liberals apologize for the dixicrats."

    jtuf
    How were the dixiecrats liberals exactly?

  • MNG||

    Here is the Oklahoma state Dixiecrat Platform.

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/dixiecrat1.html

    It doesn't look very liberal to me, does it to you?
    Hmmm, let's read, shall we?

    Strict adherence to the Constitution...Oppose the totalitarian centralized bureaucratic government...the constitutional right to choose one's associates...to accept private employment without government interference...favor home rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights...oppose and condem...regulations of private employment practices...

    They sound more like, well, libertarians to me...

  • ||

    "if the defendant 'uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce'"

    Oh, such as calling out "now that is definitely GAAY" when hearing the news of this vote on the radio, while working in one's backyard homegrown pot garden? Hate crime in progress! Send in the thought police to bust 'em up!

  • ||

    Strict adherence to the Constitution...Oppose the totalitarian centralized bureaucratic government...the constitutional right to choose one's associates...to accept private employment without government interference...favor home rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights...oppose and condem...regulations of private employment practices...

    Hmm, how do I vote for this... "Dixiecrat", you call it?

    I'm not sure what else it stands for, but I can always research it later.

  • Anonymous||

    If so, what does this bill have to do with Matthew Shephard?

    "Never let a crisis go to waste" is the official policy of our Duly(r) Elected(tm) Democratic(c) Government(ayb).

  • MJ||

    "...favor... a minimum interference with individual rights..."

    Yes, MNG, they definitely were for things a modern liberal would never be caught dead supporting.

  • Seward||

    MNG,

    Oppose the totalitarian centralized bureaucratic government...

    So modern liberals favor a totalitarian centralized bureaucratic government?

  • Anonymous||

    So modern liberals favor a totalitarian centralized bureaucratic government?

    Shhh! You're supposed to wait until after the honeymoon!

  • Paul||

    Strict adherence to the Constitution...

    You're right... knocks a liberal right out of the running.

  • MNG||

    Sewward
    No, but it appears you guys and Dixiecrats share not only a general concern, but some specific ways of expressing it...

  • coyote1284||

    IMHO a crime does not deserve a harsher sentence because it appears that it was motivated by perjudice/discrimination (standard easy definition of "hate crime"), but it should based upon inclination for the (proven) guilty party repeat offense of a crime on similar motive (the spirit of "hate crime" legislation).

    IOW one with a history of bigotry is more likely to assault another based on prjudice than one who got in an argument with another and threw blows. Sometimes anger is at the person himself, not his skin color or sexual orientation.

  • Seward||

    MNG,

    It was a joke based on what you wrote. You are the one who wrote this:

    It doesn't look very liberal to me, does it to you?

    Followed by (amongst other things) this:

    Oppose the totalitarian centralized bureaucratic government...

    Anyway, it is quite clear from actual practice that a centralized bureaucratic state is something that modern liberals (and conservatives) favor. That has brought with it a plethora of evils (as well as benefits). I'd argue that the evils outweigh the benefits and that the benefits themselves are often tainted with unwelcome unintended consequences which create feedback loops which call for more intrusive government.

  • ||

    Let me see. So, if, as a national security-threatening libertarian, I beat up some Democrat, I can get enhanced penalties? That's a hate crime, isn't it?

    The whole idea is totally stupid. Why do some classes get protected more than others? That's what this boils down to. Beat up or murder a cop, a homosexual, or a black person, and you'll get enhanced penalties, potentially. Beat up or murder someone arbitrarily, because they smell bad, for their money, etc., etc., etc. then you don't.

    To me, this is a pure political move and has nothing to do with law, justice, or morality.

  • ||

    "Mad Max -- I am gay and I am opposed to hate crime laws. Does that make me "selfphobic"?"

    If by this you are asking if you could be prosecuted for a hate crime against yourself, as absurd as all this might be, just remember the young girl recently prosecuted for distributing child pornography for sexting herself.

  • ||

    Hell, If she wasn't a lesbian then she might be committing a kiddie porn/ hate crime against herself.

  • ||

    Well, I can't wait for Radley's first stories about how this new legislation is being used for double jeopardy/to railroad someone/against drug suspects.

    Well, you could easily meet the interstate commerce test for drugs, and if you are selling to women/minorities you meet the hate crime test.

  • ||

    Let's just cut to the chase and make all crimes hate crimes, except those committed against straight white males. Isn't that what it boils down to?

  • ||

    Blah, blah, blah - in other words, Reason magazine is homophobic, and they are complicit in the murder of Matthew Shephard. Why else would you be in favor or murder, assault and rape?

    mad max -
    Do you need a prescription for your retard pills?

  • ||

    I see that was sarcasm.

    Tough to tell in a short text comment.

    My apologies. I'll just apply the retard comment to the next dumbshit thing you post, OK? ;-)

  • ||

    The slope is slippery because it's covered in fresh BS!

  • ||

    Part of the alure of liberalism political partis is the ability to claim perfection by wiping the slate clean every election season.



    FIFY. No fucking way I'm letting "conservativism" off the fucking hypocritical denial hook.

  • bubba||

    So, the effect is to dramatically increase sentencing guidelines for many/most violent crimes, and this is supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans?

    I am confused.

  • ChrisO||

    I love the obligatory Commerce Clause boilerplate in the legislation. Sort of a Constitutional Kabuki.

  • ||

    Let's just cut to the chase and make all crimes hate crimes, except those committed against straight white males. Isn't that what it boils down to?

    Bingo.

  • phalkor||

    In inverse-liberaltopia it is a crime to be offended.

  • Yakov? I have ladies for that!||

    In Soviet America, liberal state hates you!

  • lunchstealer||

    Ugh. The guys who killed Shepard got life. The guys who killed James Byrd Jr. got life and death, respectively (IIRC).

    I really really don't want to quote GWB, but the extraordinary crimes that have been used to justify this kind of law have been prosecuted and punished with some of the highest punishments available. I honestly don't think that we need these laws to ensure that race-motivated violence is punished. Any evidence of hate-based motivation tends to, in this day and age, result in less leniency, and harsher sentences.

    We don't have an epidemic, as near as I can tell, of hatemongers getting slapped on the wrist.

    What this will open the door for is new leverage for prosecutors to coerce plea-bargains. Jailhouse snitches will get reduced sentences to claim racist talk in prison, then the prosecutor says "hey, just plead guilty and at least you won't get the hate-crimes mandatory minimum. You don't think you could get a job after you were tried for hate crimes, do you? Just plead out."

    The poor and the uneducated will bear the brunt of this, including the minorities it's intended to protect.

  • Anonymous||

    What this will open the door for is new leverage for prosecutors to coerce plea-bargains. Jailhouse snitches will get reduced sentences to claim racist talk in prison, then the prosecutor says "hey, just plead guilty and at least you won't get the hate-crimes mandatory minimum. You don't think you could get a job after you were tried for hate crimes, do you? Just plead out." doubleplusgood ungoodtouch for ungoodthink.

    T,FTFY. HTH. HAND.

  • ||

    This basically removes the Constitutional protection against double jeopardy. If the Government doesn't like what you've done, you get tried in Federal Court. If a racial activist starts another Duke Lacrosse case, those boys could end up in Federal Prison.

  • ||

    Folks here might be amused by this Onion-style parody of the hate crimes concept:

    http://optoons.blogspot.com/2009/05/perpetrators-of-viscious-hateful.html

  • BORRACK||

    iT'S OFFICAL NOW THE INMATES ARE RUNNING THE ASLYUM !

  • ||

    I'm transgender and I'm opposed to this legislation. It clearly vavors one group over another in the name of "equality". All violence is sense-less and should carry the same penalties regardless of the reason for the violence (un-less of course it's in the name of self-defense).

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