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  • Indictment of Two Utah Men in Assault of Gay Men Calls for Tougher Hate Crime Legislation

Indictment of Two Utah Men in Assault of Gay Men Calls for Tougher Hate Crime Legislation

In a recent interview, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill called Utah’s hate crime legislation “toothless”. According to Utah law enforcement 1, 279 hate crimes have been reported since 1996; however, there has not been a successful prosecution.

D.A. Gill attributes the lack of successful prosecution to Utah not having a “workable” hate crime statute. A hate crime is defined as a criminal offense committed with the intent of intimidating or terrorizing a victim based on the offender's bias against a race, religion or other characteristic.

If an individual is convicted of a hate crime, the sentence may be enhanced. For example, if the individual is charged with a class B misdemeanor, the charge may be increased to a class A misdemeanor.

This outcry follows several possible hate crimes in Utah, including the 2014 attack on two gay men near a Salt Lake City bar. On August 3, 2016, two men, Eric Levi Johnson and Chad Ryan Doak, were charged with assault. D.A. Gill asserts he was unable to bring enhanced hate crime charges because the statute, as is, is unenforceable.

Proposed Hate Crime Changes in Utah

Utah legislators have introduced a bill to amend Utah’s current hate crime law. Senate Bill 107, which is currently filed but not passed. As written, the bill would define a hate crime under Utah law as the following:

"Hate crime" means any criminal offense against an individual or property regarding which the actor intentionally selects:

(a)    the individual against whom the offense is committed in whole or in part because of the actor's belief or perception regarding an individual's

  1. ancestry,
  2. disability,
  3. ethnicity,
  4. gender,
  5.  gender identity,
  6. national origin,
  7.  race, religion, or
  8. sexual orientation, or
  9. the association of that individual with another individual or group of individuals who have one or more of these characteristics, whether or not the actor's belief or perception was correct; or

(b)   the property damaged or otherwise affected by the offense in whole or in part because of the actor's belief or perception regarding the

  1.  ancestry,
  2. disability,
  3. ethnicity,
  4. gender,
  5.  gender identity,
  6. national origin,
  7.  race, religion,
  8. or sexual orientation

of the property's owner, possessor, or occupant, or the association or relationship of the property's owner, possessor, or occupant with another individual or group of individuals having one or more of these characteristics, whether or not the actor's belief or perception was correct.

Critics of the proposed hate crime amendments allege the protection is overly broad and arguably any crime would constitute a hate crime. The proposed hate crime law hinges on an alleged perpetrator’s perception of the victim, regardless of whether that perception was correct.

As of August 16, 2016, S.B. 107 is still in Senate and has not been enacted into law.

Conclusion

The team of attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP have years of experience building the strongest defenses for individuals charged with criminal offenses, including assault, battery, stalking, kidnapping, hate crimes, and other violent crimes.

Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP is regarded as one of the premier criminal defense law firms in Utah. With offices in Salt Lake City and Beaver, the attorneys proudly represent individuals throughout Utah, including Salt Lake, Tooele, Davis, Morgan, Summit, Wasatch, and Utah Counties.

Contact Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP at (801) 532-5297 or submit an online form to schedule a confidential consultation.

 

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