Defining the crime

by John Michael Weatherly

A crime is a crime, right? And the punishment should fit the CRIME, not the motive.

In this country, we have defined crimes based on motive, pre-meditation/planning, etc. Additionally, we have punishments tailored to fit those crimes. The courts hand down a sentence based on the evidence presented during the trial. The judges generally have an option of giving the minimum sentence, the maximum sentence or anywhere in between. That being the case, why should the simple fact that a victim was a minority dictate a harsher minimum sentence?

The purpose behind the hate crime laws is to convey that crimes committed based solely on race, or gender, or age, or sexual orientation or disability (or any other protected class) are worse than crimes committed for any other reason. In other words the motive is more important than the crime. It’s certainly possible that a criminal’s sole motive was race or sexual orientation, but how can you prove that? The hate crime laws basically assume that any crime in which the victim is a minority is a hate crime (unless there is an obvious other motive). That is absurd.

People commit crimes for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes whites commit crimes against blacks for reasons totally unrelated to race. Regardless of the motive, a crime is a crime. If a man kills another man, he’s going to be tried for either murder or manslaughter. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the actual crime, he may be tried for first or second degree murder or a lesser manslaughter charge. The point is that there are already different levels and degrees of crimes (and punishments) that are directly gauged on the motive and severity of the crime.

Hate crime laws guarantee special treatment to minorities. It’s as if the legislature is telling us that minorities deserve more justice than the majority. Why do groups that claim to seek equality continue to seek unique treatment? Murder should have a minimum sentence regardless of the motive, and the minimum sentence should be the same for all murders. If a judge feels that a criminal acted solely on racial motivation, he or she can choose to increase the sentence, but it is on a case by case basis. There is no need to REQUIRE said judge to impose a longer minimum sentence simply because the victim is a minority.  It's not like a criminal gets a reduced sentence for being racially motivated.

My point here is very simple: the minimum penalty for any particular crime should be absolute and uniform regardless of motive. Requiring a harsher minimum sentence based on the race or sexual orientation of the victim only serves to further separate the minorities from the majority rather than treating all groups equally. This is yet another example of minorities seeking equality through unequal treatment. Look, a murder’s a murder. You deserve a minimum sentence of 25 to life regardless of whether you killed me for being gay or for cutting you off in traffic. If I’m the same as everyone else then I don’t need the government to enact special laws to protect me differently than any other person. Hate may be immoral, but it certainly isn’t illegal.

Morality is learned, not legislated.  We can't let legislation take the place of education.

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