Most of us cheered earlier this summer as lawmakers decided to lower the Confederate flag and remove it from the grounds of the state capital, but some have suggested that it is time for the state legislature in South Carolina to take another step against racism and racially motivated violence by creating a “hate crime” statute. Currently South Carolina is one of only five states that do not have a hate crime law (the others are Wyoming, Arkansas, Georgia and Michigan). These calls come about two months after Dylann Roof murdered nearly a dozen African-American individuals at the Emanuel AME Church. Roof is being prosecuted by the federal government for 33 federal crimes, including violations of the federal hate crime law.
What a South Carolina Hate Crime Law Might Look Like
Of the 45 states that presently have hate crime laws, most of these laws are not “stand alone” laws but rather sentence enhancing laws. For example, a typical state hate crime law does not make it a separate and distinct crime to commit an act of violence based on some protected characteristic of the victim. You would still be charged with murder if you attacked someone and killed them regardless of your motivations. But a state hate crime law would increase the penalties you would face if evidence established you committed the murder because of the victim’s race, ethnicity, national origin, or some other protected classification. The increased penalties typically take the form of additional prison time on top of the sentence for the underlying crime.
Does South Carolina Need a Hate Crime Law?
The decision of whether to adopt a hate crime law is better left to legislators and politicians. However, criminal defendants currently facing charges in South Carolina can and often do have the particular facts of their crime considered when the court sentences them. Where a crime is the result of a poor decision but not one made with a particular hatred toward the victim, a defendant may be successful in pleading for some leniency. Where evidence shows the crime was committed against the victim because of the victim’s race or other characteristic, the court may be less willing to show leniency.
However, the court can only sentence the defendant in accordance with the law. For example, if the defendant is convicted of felony assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, the defendant can only be punished up to 20 years in prison regardless of the motivation behind the crime.
Why You Need a South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney
When you are charged with a crime in South Carolina, the government prosecutor is going to attempt to put your criminal acts into a certain context, in order to “paint you as a bad guy” and attempt to obtain the harshest sentence possible. You need a criminal defense attorney who will conduct a thorough investigation into the facts of your case and argue these facts before a judge or jury.
The Greenville criminal defense attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., are experienced in representing criminal defendants and will ensure that facts favorable to you – whether they absolve you of responsibility entirely or merely show an absence of violent or improper motives – are brought out and considered by the judge or jury. Contact David R. Price, Jr. P.A. today by calling (864) 271-2636 to schedule a free initial consultation.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.