Hate Crimes

Civil rights help to protect and preserve the many freedoms we have in our country. Most importantly, they ensure that people are equally protected under the law. This means that regardless of a person’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or mental or physical health, people have a right to be free from unfair discrimination.

In Massachusetts, under M.G.L. c. 265, § 37, people can be convicted of a crime called a Civil Rights Violation. In more serious cases, a person can face a conviction for a Civil Rights Violation involving serious bodily injury.

In this post, we will answer some frequently asked questions about Civil Rights Violations involving serious bodily injury. Stay update to date on the latest news in Massachusetts criminal law by following the Law Office of William J. Barabino’s official blog.

What are the punishments?

If a person is found guilty of a Civil Rights Violation without serious bodily injury, the punishments could include:

  • A maximum fine of $1,000
  • Up to one year in prison
  • Both fine and imprisonment

If bodily injury occurred, the punishment gets significantly more severe:

  • A maximum fine of $10,000
  • Up to ten years in prison
  • Both fine and imprisonment

The government and their district attorneys take civil rights violations very seriously. For this reason, if you are charged with this crime it is important that you hire an attorney who will provide a strong defense against any allegations made against you.

What is a Civil Rights Violation?

Being convicted of a Civil Rights Violation means that the government must prove certain parts to the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. According to the law, all of these things must have occurred:

  • The alleged victim was exercising a right or privilege protected by either the US Constitution, Massachusetts Constitution, or other federal or state law

  • The defendant did one or more of these things to the alleged victim while they were exercising or enjoying a right:
    • Injured them
    • Intimidated them
    • Interfered with them
    • Oppressed them
    • Threatened them
  • The defendant used or threatened force

  • The defendant acted willfully

Remember that even if only one of these things did not occur, a person accused of a Civil Rights Violation cannot be convicted.

What is a hate crime?

In Massachusetts there is a separate law for what are called hate crimes. Under M.G.L. c. 265, § 39 and a Supreme Court case clarifying this law called Commonwealth v. Kelly, a hate crime has three components:

  • An assault and battery or damage to a victim’s property occurred (these are called underlying criminal offenses)
  • The defendant acted with the intent to intimidate the victim
  • The defendant targeted the victim because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other protected characteristic

Moreover, the defendant must have had what is called specific intent. That means the person accused must have been motivated by hatred, bias, or prejudice and a wish for the consequences of their actions to occur.

What is serious bodily injury?

The law on hate crimes also provides a definition of serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury means to substantially impair someone physically. This could include:

  • Burning someone
  • Fracturing their bones
  • Injuring one of their internal organs

Not all injury is serious bodily injury. For example, in one case called Commonwealth v. Sudler, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that cuts to the fingers of a victim that occurred during an incident was not a serious bodily injury.

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.

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