What is a Hate Crime in Philadelphia?

A hate crime is a crime motivated by a bias against the victim based on a protected characteristic, such as religion or race. 

At a federal level, a hate crime occurs when someone willfully causes or attempts to cause bodily injury to a person because of their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. 

The majority of states have also enacted hate crime legislation. The specific protected characteristics and penalties for hate crimes vary between states. 

Hate crimes were first codified at a federal level in the 1960s during the civil rights era, in response to racially motivated murders. Initially, the legislation made it a crime to use or threaten force on a person because of their race, color, religion, or national origin but only when the victim was engaging in a federally protected activity, such as employment or attending school. 

Since then, hate crime legislation has expanded to encompass other protected characteristics, such as disability and sexual orientation.

At D’Intino Law Firm, LLC, we know what it takes to provide a solid defense against hate crime accusations. We will fight for you. Don’t hesitate, call 267-491-9111 or fill out an online form today to schedule a free consultation. 

Examples of Pennsylvania Hate Crimes 

At a state level, hate crimes are often charged in addition to an underlying offense. For example, someone who commits a religiously-motivated murder would be charged with murder as well as a hate crime.

Hate crimes can also be charged as stand-alone crimes. For example, at the federal level, it’s illegal to harm or threaten harm against a person based on a protected characteristic. Damaging or destroying an institutional target, such as a church or mosque is another stand-alone hate crime. 

Some recent examples of federal hate crimes cases include:

  • Three men convicted of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery were subsequently also convicted of a hate crime on the basis they targeted Mr. Arbery because of his race. 
  • A man pleaded guilty to threatening a synagogue in Los Angeles after he left a voice message threatening to kill the congregants. 
  • Two defendants pleaded guilty to a hate crime for using Grindr, a dating app, to connect with, then kidnap, rob, and sexually assault gay men. 

Due to their nature, hate crimes victimize a community, as well as the individual victim. For this reason, the law deals with hate crimes harshly.

Penalties for Hate Crimes

Under federal law, a hate crime is punishable by fines and/or up to 10 years imprisonment. This increases to up to life imprisonment if the crime results in the death of the victim, or involves sexual abuse, kidnapping, or attempted murder.

Penalties for hate crimes at a state level vary depending on the relevant legislation. They usually include fines, community service, and imprisonment. 

Defenses Against Hate Crime Allegations in Pennsylvania

The defenses available to a defendant charged with a hate crime depend on the specific circumstances of their case. Possible defenses may include innocence, mistaken identity, and insufficient evidence.


A defendant may simply claim that they didn’t do what the prosecution alleges. 

Mistaken Identity

Where a hate crime occurred but was committed by someone else other than the defendant, they may argue a case of mistaken identity. 

Insufficient Evidence

As in all criminal cases, the prosecution must prove each element of a hate crime beyond a reasonable doubt for a defendant to be convicted. If they don’t, for example, by failing to present enough evidence that the crime was racially motivated, a defendant may be acquitted.

Legal Representation Against Hate Crimes Is Important in Philadelphia

Being charged with a hate crime does not mean you are automatically guilty. The team at D’Intino Law Firm, LLC will review your case, talk to you, and help create a defense. Call us today at 267-491-9111 or use our online form to contact us to schedule a free consultation.