Which Federal Civil Rights Violations Should I Keep in Mind?
Federal civil rights laws impose criminal penalties against those who violate them, making it critical to understand what these laws include. While there are various federal civil rights statutes, our Santa Barbara federal crime lawyers highlight 4 particular laws and their corresponding penalties, as they may be of interest and benefit to you:
Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act
This act makes it illegal to willfully cause bodily injury or attempt to do so with fire, a firearm, or other dangerous weapons, under the following circumstances:
- The crime was committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin of any person; or
- the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person, and it either affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal jurisdiction.
Hate crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison and carry a 7-year statute of limitations. However, the punishment may be increased if death, attempts to cause death, kidnapping or attempted kidnapping, or aggravated sexual abuse or attempted aggravated sexual abuse results from the offense.
This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to do the following to any person of any state, territory, or district in their free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege afforded to them by the US Constitution or US laws:
Further prohibited acts include two or more persons going in disguise on the highway or premises of another with the intent to prevent or hinder their free exercise or enjoyment of any rights so secured. If convicted, the penalty will vary from a steep fine and up to 10 years in federal prison but may increase to life in prison or a death sentence if death, attempts to cause death, kidnapping or attempted kidnapping, or aggravated sexual abuse or attempted aggravated sexual abuse results from the offense.
Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law
Under this law, it is a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person the rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and US laws. “Color of law” means that a person is exercising authority that was granted to them by a local, state, or federal government agency.
If convicted, the punishment ranges from a fine and up to 1 year in prison, or up to 10 years if bodily injury results or such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire. A defendant may suffer up to life in prison or death if their crime results in death, attempts to cause death, kidnapping or attempted kidnapping, or aggravated sexual abuse or attempted aggravated sexual abuse.
Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996
This act prohibits the following:
- intentional defacement, damage, or destruction of any religious real property, because of the religious, racial, or ethnic characteristics of that property, or
- intentional obstruction by force or threat of force, or attempts to obstruct any person in the enjoyment of that person's free exercise of religious beliefs.
To prosecute a defendant, the federal government must prove that the religious real property has a sufficient connection with interstate or foreign commerce for crimes motivated by religious animosity. If the crime was racially motivated, however, prosecutors do not have to satisfy the interstate or foreign commerce element.
Former Prosecutors Defending the Accused
At Appel & Morse, we understand that a federal crime accusation, especially one that involves reported violations of federal civil rights laws, is a serious situation that requires a risk assessment approach at every stage of the process. With insights into both sides of the justice system and 40+ combined years of experience, our criminal defense lawyers can anticipate the prosecution’s attacks and prepare counteractive defense strategies accordingly. Our mission is to help get your federal charges reduced or dropped completely so you can move forward.
To learn more about how we can serve you, arrange your free consultation online or by calling (805) 467-6060!