In Ohio, an offense becomes a hate crime when a person engages in specific conduct against certain classes of people. The law concerning hate crimes (ethnic intimidation) does not explicitly prohibit conduct or behavior. Rather, it provides that if a person engages in a crime motivated by bias against another, the court may impose harsher sentences.
According to the law, a hate crime is broadly defined as one that is committed against someone else because of that person's:
- Religion, or
- National origin
Increased Penalties for Hate Crimes
If a person is found guilty of a biased-related offense, they may face penalties for the next higher degree for the underlying crime. For instance, suppose a woman gets out of her car and encounters another individual. For whatever reason, she threatens to harm that person should they get closer to her. Because of her actions, she could be charged with menacing, which occurs when someone makes another person believe that they will physically harm them or their property.
In Ohio, menacing is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The conviction penalties for this offense include up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250.
Now, let's return to the example of the woman getting out of her car. Say she perceives the person she passes as a member of a certain race. Along with her threat of harm, she also uses a racial slur. In this case, she can be charged with ethnic intimidation and menacing. Instead of the offense being a fourth-degree misdemeanor, it is now a third-degree misdemeanor. Because her crime is considered a hate crime, the woman faces up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
Although the example discusses a crime increasing from one degree of misdemeanor to the next higher one, the ethnic intimidation law does not allow only for enhancements within the same level of offense, which means that a misdemeanor can be increased to a felony. For instance, say the woman in the earlier example threatens to hit the other person with her car. Because she has threatened to cause serious physical harm, the offense becomes aggravated menacing, which is a first-degree misdemeanor. If that threat is coupled with words demonstrating that her actions were motivated by racial bias, the crime becomes a fifth-degree felony.
Offenses Covered Under the Ethnic Intimidation Law
Although the earlier examples are concerned with threats of harm against another, those are not the only types of offenses that can be enhanced under the ethnic intimidation statute.
A person may face increased penalties if they committed any of the following offenses and their actions were based on race, color, religion, or national origin:
- Criminal damaging or endangering
- Criminal mischief
- Telecommunications harassment
If you were charged with a crime in Dayton, reach out to L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC immediately. Our attorneys will conduct a thorough assessment of your circumstances and develop a unique defense strategy for you. Call us at (937) 685-7006 or contact us online today.