Seasoned Sevierville Defense Attorneys Protecting the Rights of Clients Accused of Hate Crimes

Aggressive defense strategies for clients throughout East Tennessee

Federal charges of a crime are always serious. If the government believes, however, there was an element of bias in that crime, the charges can escalate quickly. A “hate crime,” as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

These are exceptionally complex and challenging cases; you want a defense lawyer who is up to the task. At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, we protect the rights of our clients and uphold their Constitutional rights when they stand accused of a hate crime by the federal government. We are proud to represent clients in Sevier County, Greeneville, the Tri-Cities and throughout East Tennessee, and we do not back down from a fight. If you are facing federal charges, we want to protect you and your future.

What acts can be considered hate crimes?

Hate crime charges are felony charges. The most common include:

However, if the federal government believes that you committed a bias crime, it could turn a misdemeanor charge into a felony charge.

Federal laws against hate crimes

Though Tennessee keeps track of hate crimes through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the federal government has its own set of hate crime laws which all people must follow. As per the Department of Justice, those laws are:

  • The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009
  • Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing
  • Damage to Religious Property, Church Arson Prevention Act
  • Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights
  • Conspiracy Against Rights

Both the FBI and the DOJ claim to be sensitive to issues of free speech. This is important, because you cannot be charged with a hate crime just because you said something that was deemed hateful or offensive to another person. Legally, there is no such thing as hate speech. All speech, unless otherwise designated – such as yelling “Fire!” in a crowded room when there is no fire, or violating libel laws, etc. –is protected speech.

Proving bias played a role in a crime

The single most important element of a hate crime charge is intent: the federal government must be able to prove that the accused committed a crime against another person or institution because of a specific bias against that person or institution. To do so, investigators rely on much more than the act itself. Evidence to prove bias may include:

  • A history or participation in previous bias crimes or activities
  • Membership in groups which advocate for hate or bias against other groups
  • Possession of paraphernalia which contains or displays certain symbols, such as swastikas, the Arrow Cross, certain numeric codes, KKK clothing, etc.
  • Possession of writings, either done by the accused or by others, which advocate for hate or bias
  • Use of slurs or defamatory language in every day conversation
  • Use of slurs or defamatory language during the commission of a crime
  • A history of failing to engage with certain groups either in the course of one’s job duties (such as denying service to a person of color) or in other activities

Penalties for federal hate crime convictions

Generally speaking, the penalties for hate crimes include incarceration in a federal prison for up to 10 years. In some case, you could face life in prison. If, however, you are accused of kidnapping, murder or sexual assault, you could be given the death penalty by a federal jury. The first person ever sentenced to death for violation of a federal hate crime was Dylann Roof, the man who murdered nine parishioners at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina in 2015.

Defending against federal hate crime charges

Our Sevierville-based attorneys understand that every defense against a federal hate crime charge must be two-pronged: first, we strive to prove that you are innocent of committing a crime at all. If it is not feasible to make such a claim, then we must prove that the crime committed was either a lesser crime, or was not based in bias.

To this end, we employ aggressive and creative strategies on behalf of our East Tennessee clients who are facing federal charges of hate crimes. We interview witnesses, review all evidence and documentation, and conduct our own investigations in order to prove that our clients did not commit a criminal act because of bias against another person.

Aggressive Sevierville defense attorneys fight for your rights when you are charged with a federal hate crime

Delius & McKenzie, PLLC has earned a reputation for comprehensive counsel and zealous advocacy on behalf of individuals facing federal criminal charges. Proving that a person committed a hate crime is far more difficult than you might think, but you need competent counsel immediately if you are facing a federal charge of any kind. To speak with an experienced Sevierville criminal defense attorney, please call 865-428-8780, or fill out our contact form. We proudly serve clients throughout East Tennessee, including those in Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Bristol, Johnson City, Kingsport, and Greeneville.