State Rep. Kristine Howard (D-167) is calling for additions to Pennsylvania’s hate crime designations.
In a House memorandum released Monday, Howard said the lack of hate crime legislation for crimes against intellectual and physical disabilities is “a critical gap in Pennsylvania’s Criminal Code.”
“At this writing, Pennsylvania’s Criminal Code provides for hate crime charges stemming from incidents involving acts committed against an individual based on race, color, religion or national origin,” the memorandum said. “With that said, attacks committed against disabled individuals represent some of the most repugnant acts and should be punished accordingly. As such, I will be re-introducing legislation that adds ‘intellectual or physical disability’ to the list of elements that prosecutors can consider when contemplating hate crime charges.”
According to the Pennsylvania State Police, “Hate crimes—including violence or the threat of violence—are motivated by the hatred of a person or group of people based upon race, religion, or sexual orientation of the victim or victims.”
Defining and prosecuting “hate crimes” remains challenging, however. Instead of limiting the prosecution to the crimes committed, the hate crime legislation adds another facet to the prosecution: the bias (or thoughts) of the defendant.
Senate Bill 63, sponsored by State Sen. Timothy Kearney (D-26) would further provide for the “offense of ethnic intimidation.” Kearney’s bill states that a “person commits the offense of ethnic unlawful intimidation” if he commits a crime with malicious intention toward the “actual or perceived race” of the victim.