How Could South Carolina’s Hate Crime Bill Affect You?
Ever since the 2015 Charleston church shooting in which 9 black church members were murdered in a racist attack, SC lawmakers pushed for a state hate crime bill. Currently, South Carolina is one of 3 states that do not have hate crime laws, and that may soon change. Arkansas and Wyoming have yet to pass legislation addressing hate crimes.
Under the proposed bill, a person who commits a certain offense (see below) with the intent to assault, intimidate, or threaten a person because of the following actual or perceived characteristics is guilty of a felony and will be penalized with a $2,000 to $10,000 fine and/or 2 to 15 years in prison.
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
“Certain offenses” in this context include violent crimes and malicious injury offenses. Keep in mind that more offenses may be added as the bill continues to get revised.
The proposed hate crime bill passed the House Judiciary Committee 23-0 on Tuesday, March 16th, and is awaiting approval by the House. South Carolina legislators hope to get the bill approved before April 10th, as waiting any longer could render the bill hopeless and ineffective.
To get approval as quickly as possible, South Carolina lawmakers have removed stalking, harassment, property destruction, and vandalism from crimes that could enhance hate crime penalties, meaning the bill does not address non-violent hate offenses. Many legislators believe it is wrong to remove non-violent offenses from the proposal because hate crimes can be both violent and non-violent. For the sake of timeliness and approval, however, legislators had to accommodate the viewpoints of both sides of the political spectrum.
Should the hate crime bill pass into law, the following laws would apply:
- Victims cannot sue in civil court for a hateful act
- Judges get wider discretion to add a hate crime to a sentence if circumstances permit
- A 5-year prison sentence will be added following a conviction for murder, assault, or another hate-fueled violent crime
- A stalking or harassment conviction would bring up to 3 years in prison, while vandalism would add one year to a sentence (if these provisions are restored)
The bill is currently getting amended. As such, the provisions above may get removed while new ones get added.
Regardless of what the final proposal looks like, the bottom line is the state of South Carolina is pushing for new hate crime legislation and may be successful in getting it passed. This means that if you are charged for a crime, not only could you face penalties for the charged offense but also additional repercussions if your reported acts constitute a hate crime.
Learn about how this bill could impact your case and your future by reaching out at (803) 938-4952!