Arkansas, South Carolina Face Pressure to Enact Hate Crime Laws

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Anti-Hate Crime March at the University of Delaware, Photo by Xander Opiyo via Flickr.

Georgia’s recently enacted hate crime law may nudge remaining states which have resisted similar legislation into action.

Legislators in Arkansas and South Carolina have begun efforts to push for hate crime legislation, prodded by Georgia’s example, The Wall Street Journal reports .

The Georgia bill signed into law on June 26 by Gov. Brian Kemp increases the sentence in cases where the victim was targeted based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or other bias, and creates a hate crimes database.

An earlier Georgia law was struck down by the state’s supreme court in 2004. But  momentum for the new law increased following the February death of  Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man shot while jogging in a largely white neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga. Three white individuals are facing murder charges after video of the incident surfaced.

Under the new Georgia law, a person found guilty of committing a crime found to be motivated by bias would face six to 12 months in prison in addition to whatever sentence was levied for the original crime, along with a fine of up to $5,000 for one of five misdemeanor offenses, and at least two years in jail for a felony offense.

This law also specifically requires law enforcement officers to prepare and submit a written report, called a “Bias Crime Report,” when investigating any crimes that appear to be hate crimes, whether or not an arrest is made.

Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming, are the only states without laws penalizing crimes motivated by bias.

Historically, leadership in these Republican-controlled states have resisted hate crime legislation, on the grounds that existing laws are adequate for addressing these types of crimes.

But in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd, as well as of other African-American men and women this year, bipartisan support for hate crime legislation has grown as part of a nationwide acknowledgment of systemic racial bias.

The FBI recently reported that hate crimes are at their highest level in more than a decade.

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