Efforts are underway to update Michigan’s hate crimes law for the first time in nearly 35 years, as lawmakers testified Tuesday on a bill package to expand who and what the existing law covers.
Under the four-bill package, Michigan will do just that Expanding the scope of the racial intimidation law To include many protected groups not currently covered, including people with disabilities, seniors, and LGBTQ Michiganders.
“I can’t write a bill that gets rid of anti-Semitism or anti-black racism or anti-Asian racism or homophobia or Islamophobia,” said Rep. Noah Arbett, the West Bloomfield Democrat, who sponsors half of the bill package. “What we can do is address hate when it aligns with a criminal act. What we can do is improve Michigan’s tools for response, the pursuit of justice and accountability, and the creation of opportunities to reduce hate violence.
house bills 4474 during 4475 It would allow for enhanced sentences in the case of hate crime offenders, taking into account other factors such as previous convictions, though it would also allow judges to issue alternative penalties, such as community service.
However, these alternative penalties can occur in addition to or instead of imprisonment and fine. The current law states that a person convicted of a hate crime can face up to two years in prison, a fine of no more than $5,000, or both, which will remain the same under the bill package.
However, if the hate crime involves certain circumstances—such as bodily injury, the perpetrator being convicted of one or more hate crimes, or the hate crime being committed while in possession of a firearm—criminal penalties can be increased to five years in prison, or a fine of up to $10,000. , or both.
The other two parts of the package, HP 4476 And GB 4477would then create the Institutional Desecration Act, which makes the mutilation, destruction, and targeted vandalism of property such as places of worship, cultural community centers, and businesses a hate crime.
The fines and penalties imposed under these warrants vary, ranging from imprisonment of up to 93 days, a fine of up to $500, or both for someone who causes damages of less than $200 and has no prior convictions to up to 10 years in prison. , and fines of up to $15,000 or both for damages valued at $20,000 or more, regardless of prior convictions.
Attorney General Dana Nessel and Wayne County District Attorney Kim Worthy testified in support of the legislation on Tuesday. Both spoke of the need to update the law, which has not been addressed since it was signed into law 35 years ago.
“I feel, at times, that I can’t properly represent my constituents because we don’t have the tools as prosecutors to protect people from certain crimes,” Worthy said. “I don’t know about you, but you feel so bad for weeks on end when you look at… someone who’s been a victim of a hate crime, and you look them in the face and tell them because of Michigan law, there’s nothing I can do for you.
Michigan enacted its initial hate crime law in 1988 after the murder of Vincent Chen. A Chinese American from Highland Park, Chen was beaten to death in 1982 after two auto workers thought he was of Japanese descent.
His killing came during a period of heightened anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States, with both men blaming Chen and his heritage for the success of Japan’s burgeoning auto industry within the United States.
In his testimony, Nessel said the need for stronger hate crime laws was preventive and aimed at preventing smaller, but hate-motivated crimes from turning into more serious crimes.
“These hate crime laws are to prevent murder,” Nessel said. “In the dozens of very serious, bias-motivated, bias-motivated murders and attempted murders…that I have dealt with, the defendant did not start out by killing people – or attempting to kill people. There were always less serious assaults, or sometimes damage to property, that occurred before the murder.
Data for Michigan State collected by US Department of Justice 2020 He noted that nearly 78% of hate crimes reported within the country were committed by one person against another, and bias against a person’s race, ethnicity or origin was the motive in just over 72% of reported cases.
However, the way hate crime data is collected at the federal level changed in 2021, leading law enforcement agencies to get involved according to Michigan-focused hate crime statistics for 2021 Provided by the US Department of Justice.
Since the bills did not receive a vote on Tuesday, they will await further consideration before being voted on in the House of Representatives at a later date.
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