On May 20, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the Hate Crime Initiative (the “Initiative”) on the one-year anniversary of President Joe Biden’s signing of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (“Hate Crimes Act”).
Under federal law, hate crimes are acts that are motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. Mere acts of prejudice that are not crimes and do not involve violence, threats or property damage are considered bias or hate incidents, not hate crimes. Hate crimes, specifically within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been a prominent concern over the last two years.
The Hate Crimes Act directs the DOJ to speed up review of hate crimes, improve reporting and to reach out to law enforcement agencies and provide them with tools and resources for reporting, enforcing and preventing hate crimes. The Khalid Jabara – Heather Heyer No Hate Act amended the Hate Crimes Act to promote an improved response to hate crime in the United States on federal, state and local law enforcement levels, by providing new grants, training and assistance to improve reporting.
The new 2022 Initiative sets forth efforts the DOJ will take to help deter and confront hate crimes. According to the DOJ, these efforts will include: 1) issuing new guidance with the Department of Health and Human Services to raise awareness of hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic; 2) releasing $10 million in grant solicitations for programs to create state-run hate crime reporting hotlines and to support community-based approaches to prevent and address hate crimes; and 3) hiring the department’s inaugural language access coordinator to remove any language barrier to reporting.
With the additional funding, we expect to see an increase in prosecutions and enforcement actions against individuals accused of hate crimes. For more information, please contact Madelaine Lane or a member of the White-Collar Criminal Defense Practice Group.
2022 Summer Associate Danica Bebble contributed to this eAlert.