Hate Crime in Arizona: Taking a Look at the Numbers and the Laws

The concept of hate crime is getting more and more media attention lately. Studies show that hate crime in Arizona spiked in 2015 and 2016. Phoenix is one of the cities that have seen significant increase in such violations. What exactly is hate crime and how is it punished in the state? Here are a few of the most important essentials to keep in mind.

Hate Crime Statistics for Arizona

A hate crime is defined as any offense that is motivated by racial, sexual, religious and other prejudices against the victim. Most often, hate crime involves violence but there could be exceptions.

Some of the most prominent examples of hate crime include being physically attacked or assaulted, vandalism and property destruction, arson, the painting of hate symbols like swastikas, firebombing of residences/businesses/places of worship and cemetery desecration.

According to FBI statistics, Phoenix is one of the cities in the US that have seen a profound increase in the number of hate crimes. In the period from 2006 to 2010, a rise of 125 percent in hate crimes was registered.

The FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2015 suggests that the number of hate crimes increased to 231 from 183 during the previous year – an increase of 26 percent. What’s even worse is that cities of comparable sizes in other parts of the US report a much lower incidence of such offenses.

The overwhelming majority of hate crimes that take place in the state are motivated by race (58.7 percent). Sexual orientation follows as a motivating factor with 20.6 percent and religion comes third (18.8 percent).

A very important and troubling factor is that many of the hate crimes that occur in Arizona and throughout the US will never be reported. Fear and shame provoke many of the victims to refrain from contacting the authorities.

Arizona Laws and Regulations

Depending on the situation, just about every felony in Arizona could be classified as a hate crime. For this to happen, it must be proven that the violent offense occurred due to malice stemming from the race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc. of the victim.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes 13-701D15, such malice is going to be considered as an aggravating factor in the offense. Here’s an example of how this provision works. An armed robbery will usually result in a Class 2 felony conviction. A Class 2 felony carries a sentence of five years in prison for a first-time offender. Whenever a hate crime has occurred, this sentence could potentially be increased to 12.5 years.

hate crime in ArizonaWhile hate and malice are considered aggravating factors, Arizona still doesn’t have stand-alone provision that target hate crimes specifically. In the US, most states have at least some provisions related to offenses stemming from malice. Arizona is one of the only four states that don’t have such specific provisions yet.

Some steps are being made in the right direction. While some of these improvements are local, they suggest a positive change towards the prosecution of hate crimes.

Tucson, for example, is considering a new city ordinance aimed at increasing the penalties for hate crimes. Individuals committing misdemeanors that are motivated by biases and malice face at least 10 days in jail and a fine of 500 dollars for a first time offense. For a second-time offense, the penalties will increase to 20 days in jail and a fine of 1,000 dollars. Third-time offenders face 40 days in jail and a fine of 2,500 dollars.

At the time being, every crime in Arizona has a range of minimum and maximum sentences based on aggravating factors. Hate and malice are considered such factors that could potentially increase the length of the sentence. The sentencing judge has to consider evidence of a bias towards the victim when calculating the penalty for hate crime in Arizona. Contact experienced AZ legal team when involved in a hate crime case.