Hate Crime Laws
[O]ur single most effective weapon is the law. I implore you to support the Bias Related Violence and Intimidation Act I have proposed, and make it clear to the people of this state that behaviour based on bias will not be ignored or tolerated.
Letter from New York State Governor Mario M. Cuomo to the New York State Legislature, August 16, 1991
BY 1995, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, thirty-seven states, and the District of Columbia had passed hate crime laws that fall into four categories: (1) sentence enhancements; (2) substantive crimes; (3) civil rights statutes; and (4) reporting statutes. The diversity of these laws demonstrates the plasticity of the hate crime concept.
The majority of hate crime statutes are of the sentence enhancement type. Typically, these laws bump up the penalty for a particular crime when the offender's motivation is an officially designated prejudice. The Montana and Alabama sentence enhancement statutes are typical. Montana provides that
a person who has been found guilty of any offense . . . that was committed because of the victim's race, creed, religion, color, national origin, or involvement in civil rights or human rights activities . . . in addition to the punishment provided for commission of the offense, may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than two years or more than 10 years. 1