Hate crimes are based on bigotry, and are committed because of the intended victim's actual or perceived ancestry, color, creed, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability (including HIV status), or national original.
A hate crime can only be charged when a precedent crime is established -- i.e. battery, assault, aggravated assault, criminal damage to property (vandalism), criminal trespass, mob action, looting, disorderly conduct or harassment by telephone occurs -- and a specific hate motive is established.
Hate crime is a Class 4 felony. According to Illinois law, hate can be considered an aggravating factor and "accorded weight in favor of imposing a term of imprisonment or may be considered by the court as reason to impose a more severe sentence."
The Jewish community has long been in the forefront of national and state efforts to deter and counteract hate-motivated activity. In the course of the past two decades, some 40 states, including Illinois, have enacted hate crime laws in addition to federal initiatives to combat hate crimes.
On October 28th, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a monumental piece of legislation the JCRC has advocated on behalf of for over a decade. This bill greatly strengthens and expanded hate crime legislation in the United States, to include those crimes motivated by the victim's gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Additionally, it eliminated the prerequisite that the victim be engaged in a federally-protected activity – such as voting, attending school, or a public facility – in order to prosecute the perpetrator under hate crime laws. The bill also improves the means by which hate crimes are prosecuted, allowing federal officials to assist local law enforcement in dealing with hate crimes.