Following the of a Minnesota woman, lawmakers increased the penalties for those convicted of hate crimes in the State.
After a high-profile assault case raised questions about Minnesota’s hate-crime laws, state legislators took action. The Minnesota Senate judiciary committee recently passed a bill that will increase the maximum penalty for felony assaults that are considered hate crimes. Under this bill, maximum sentences will increase by 25 percent for those convicted of a felony assault that was based on the victim’s race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, age or national origin.
“This change to the law will dramatically affect the way that alleged hate crimes are handled in Minnesota,” says Minneapolis assault lawyer and owner of Keller Law Offices, Max A. Keller. “While an assault is often motivated by anger toward another individual, a hate crime generally affects an individual or small group but is directed toward a larger group or community.”
Before making their decision, the judiciary committee heard testimony from the victim of an October 2015 attack in Minnesota. The woman, who was hit with a beer mug by another customer at a Minnesota eatery because she was speaking in Swahili with her family, suffered facial injuries and required seventeen stitches. As a result of the assault, the victim was scared to leave her home and wondered if she should leave the state that she has called home since 2000.
At the time of the incident, a hate crime was considered a gross misdemeanor. Because the penalty was so low, her attacker was charged with a felony third-degree assault. The Minnesota lawmakers responsible for the bill hope that the increased penalties will make individuals think twice before committing a hate based crime and discourage further assaults of this nature. The bill includes explicit descriptions of bias based on a victim’s race, sexual orientation, age or disability and aims to prevent attacks that are motivated by hate for any group of people.