Hate Crimes Against People with Disabilities
Hate crimes are largely considered those perpetrated against certain groups or individuals, motivated by the victim's religion, race, or sexual orientation. Indeed, the most widely-publicized incidents labeled as hate crimes are those in which a person is distinctly vocal about his or her disdain for a certain group of people and its beliefs, creeds, or private activities. Yet hate crimes can also be perpetrated against groups of people with disabilities, whether they are primarily physical. mental, or emotional in nature. In fact, studies show that people with learning disabilities are more vulnerable than others to experience bullying, harassment or to be victims of hate crime. In 2007, for example, 79 of the total hate crimes reported nationwide were committed against people with disabilities, a marked increase from the 44 hate crimes against people with disabilities that were reported in 2003.
Historically Few Protections
This group of people includes any person who has mental or emotional issues, including but not limited to: development delays, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and other mental impairments. For much of the 20th century, people with disabilities were often marginalized from so-called “normal” society, and there were no laws specifically forbidding discrimination against them. The Americans with Disabilities Act, the nation’s first civil rights law prohibiting the discrimination of people with disabilities in the workplace, public accommodations, and public services, was not passed until 1990. It may be little wonder, then, that the rate of hate crimes perpetrated against this particular group continues to be an issue.
One of the most complicated factors surrounding the accusation and charging of a hate crime is that a person allegedly committing the so-called hate crime may not even be aware that he was doing so. If, for example, a caregiver is made aware of a crime but does not report it, he or she can be held accountable. If a person is harassing a person with a disability—such as making fun of him or consistently causing mischievous, if not malicious, situations—he could actually be charged with harassment, which can in turn be labeled as a hate crime if the court deems the situation serious enough.
Get the Help You Need
As such, if you have been charged with a hate crime against a person with disabilities, the most important step is to seek legal counsel. Do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced Stamford criminal defense attorney today.