Hate Crimes (II)
Another problem with this particular bill is that it explicitly encourages federal prosecutors to try defendants twice for the same crime, even if the first trial results in acquittal.
People usually think of hate-crimes bills as sentence-enhancers – and indeed, many state hate-crime laws take that format. The Shepard bill does not. In addition to providing financial help for local prosecutors for hate crimes, it creates a new federal charge, with a ten-year prison sentence, that can be used against those who commit “crimes of violence” with firearms or explosives, or which cause serious bodily harm, motivated by hatred toward certain groups.
If someone is acquitted of an alleged hate crime at the state level, this bill allows federal prosecutors to haul him into federal court for the same alleged act, based only on evidence that “hate” motivated the crime that the jury says the defendant didn’t commit. This makes use of a loophole in the constitutional protection from double jeopardy.
I could see how this approach would be justified if state and local courts consistently ignored crime motivated by gender or racial animus, but I don’t think this is the case. All things considered, this legislation strikes me as a bad idea, though this doesn’t mean all hate crimes legislation is necessarily bad.