In 47 states across the United States of America, hate crime laws are on the books. One of the remaining states without such a law is South Carolina. Hate crime legislation can impact criminal cases significantly, as the charges which could be faced by individuals may be impacted on the motive behind the alleged crime, rather than the alleged crime itself. Recently, the Chamber of Commerce in South Carolina made a strong statement in support of a hate crime law in the state, though it still remains a controversial issue with lawmakers.
Currently, South Carolina prosecutors do not have a method of increasing charges for crimes committed by hate, as is the case in most other states. This means that only the crime itself can be charged by state authorities, with no enhanced penalties if the accused is motivated by a victim’s race, sexuality, gender identity or religion. However, this does not prevent federal prosecutors to bring action under federal legislation, where hate crime laws do exist.
Lawmakers who oppose a state hate crime law argue that federal laws provide sufficient coverage for these types of situations. Those who support it say the federal laws need a state counterpart, in order for hate crime penalties to be considered in less severe criminal situations where federal authorities would not normally get involved. The Chamber of Commerce, which represents business leaders in South Carolina, have made the passing of such a law a priority on their agenda for the year. This move follows a letter signed by 80 businesses in the state requesting that the General Assembly pass legislation increasing penalties for hate-motivated crimes.
The process of passing a bill can sometimes take a fair amount of time, with debate and adjustments on both sides. However, following such news is important for lawyers in South Carolina, as laws like these may impact a case in the future. As laws, penalties and other critical details can always change, it is important that those facing such charges connect with a South Carolina lawyer as soon as possible to understand their best options.