Southern Arizona Hate Crimes Task Force

YWCA Tucson is a member of and the host & fiscal agent for the Southern Arizona Hate Crimes Task Force. We are committed to making southern Arizona a safe place for all to live, work and play. 

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What is a hate crime?

A hate crime is a crime committed against a person, property, or community that is motivated in whole or in part by prejudice or bias against the victim or the victim’s family, friends, or associates or against a class or group of persons.

“Hate” as a specific emotion is not an element of state or federal statutes defining hate crimes. Rather, it is the perpetrator’s prejudicial motive or bias that distinguishes this crime from other crimes. Victims of hate crimes are singled out simply because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibility, physical handicap, or political affiliation.

The elements of a hate crime are:

  1. There must be an underlying criminal act.
  2. The motivation for the crime must be hate or bias towards a particular class or group defined by such characteristics as race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, or national origin.
  3. The perpetrator must have selected the victim of the crime based on a perception or belief that the victim or the victim’s family, friends, or associates belong to that group or class.

Examples of hate crimes include:

  • Physical attacks
  • Destruction of property
  • Cross burnings
  • Arson
  • Vandalism
  • Painting hate symbols such as swastikas
  • Cemetery desecration
  • Firebombing of residences, churches, or businesses

On October 28, 2009, The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law. The law updates existing federal hate crime statutes by expanding the legal definition of a hate crime to cover crimes committed because of a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The law also lifts restrictive requirements regarding engagement in a federally-protected activity and provides resources, including federal training and direct assistance, to law enforcement officials. On the state level, 45 states have enacted laws that address hate crimes.

There is strong public support for hate crime prevention and elimination from law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations, including Attorneys General for 22 states, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

How are hate crimes treated in Arizona?

In Arizona, crimes motivated by bias against the victim are not generally defined as separate crimes. Rather, a defendant’s bias or prejudice is a factor to be considered at the time of sentencing. Every crime defined under Arizona law has an assigned sentencing range, from the minimum possible (“mitigated term”) up to the highest possible (“aggravated term”). In the absence of any mitigating or aggravating factors, a sentencing judge must impose the presumptive sentence, which lies between the mitigated and aggravated terms. Evidence that a crime was committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability, or the defendant’s perception of those characteristics, is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes (A.R.S. § 13-701(D)(15)). This means that the sentencing judge must consider such evidence in determining the appropriate sentence and may impose a sentence greater than the presumptive sentence.

YWCA Position

The YWCA supports the enforcement of hate crime laws that protect people from harassment, violence and other crimes based on race, gender, gender identity, religion, ethnicity, age, disability, or sexual orientation.