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Understanding Hate/Bias Incidents, Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Violations

Hate/Bias Incidents

A hate incident refers to an action, behavior or speech that expresses prejudice, bias or hostility against a person or group based on their protected characteristics. Hate incidents may involve offensive comments, gestures or other non-criminal behaviors.

Example: A person makes derogatory and offensive comments about someone's perceived sexual orientation in a private conversation. While hurtful and offensive, it doesn't involve a criminal act. This is a hate/bias incident.

Hate Crimes

A hate crime is a criminal act committed against a person, group or their property, motivated by prejudice or bias against protected characteristics. What distinguishes a hate crime from other crimes is the underlying bias or prejudice that motivates the perpetrator. A crime committed that is motivated by prejudice, hate or bias is a hate crime.

Example: The same person physically assaults someone on the street while using homophobic slurs. In this case, the assault is not only offensive but also constitutes a criminal act due to the violent nature and the motivation behind it being the victim's sexual orientation.

Civil Rights Violations

A civil rights violation refers to any act or conduct that unlawfully deprives an individual or a group of their rights and privileges guaranteed by law. Discriminatory actions based on protected characteristics may constitute a civil rights violation.

Example: A landlord refusing to rent an apartment to a couple because the landlord does not agree with their religious beliefs is a violation of the couples' civil rights. Because fair housing laws make it illegal to refuse housing based on religion, this is a civil rights violation.

Important note: The distinction between these categories can sometimes be subtle and may depend on the legal definitions in a specific jurisdiction. Authorities and legal professionals typically assess the circumstances and applicable laws to determine the appropriate categorization and legal consequences. Visit the Department of Civil Rights’ webpage For Victims of Unlawful Discrimination for more information.