18 U.S. Code § 249 - Hate crime acts

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(a) In General.—
(1) Offenses involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin.— Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person—
(A) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
(B) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if—
(i) death results from the offense; or
(ii) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.
(2) Offenses involving actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.—
(A) In general.— Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person—
(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if—
(I) death results from the offense; or
(II) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.
(B) Circumstances described.— For purposes of subparagraph (A), the circumstances described in this subparagraph are that—
(i) the conduct described in subparagraph (A) occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim—
(I) across a State line or national border; or
(II) using a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce;
(ii) the defendant uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A);
(iii) in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A), the defendant employs a firearm, dangerous weapon, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce; or
(iv) the conduct described in subparagraph (A)—
(I) interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct; or
(II) otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce.
(3) Offenses occurring in the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the united states.— Whoever, within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States, engages in conduct described in paragraph (1) or in paragraph (2)(A) (without regard to whether that conduct occurred in a circumstance described in paragraph (2)(B)) shall be subject to the same penalties as prescribed in those paragraphs.
(4) Guidelines.— All prosecutions conducted by the United States under this section shall be undertaken pursuant to guidelines issued by the Attorney General, or the designee of the Attorney General, to be included in the United States Attorneys’ Manual that shall establish neutral and objective criteria for determining whether a crime was committed because of the actual or perceived status of any person.
(b) Certification Requirement.—
(1) In general.— No prosecution of any offense described in this subsection may be undertaken by the United States, except under the certification in writing of the Attorney General, or a designee, that—
(A) the State does not have jurisdiction;
(B) the State has requested that the Federal Government assume jurisdiction;
(C) the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence; or
(D) a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.
(2) Rule of construction.— Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit the authority of Federal officers, or a Federal grand jury, to investigate possible violations of this section.
(c) Definitions.— In this section—
(1) the term “bodily injury” has the meaning given such term in section 1365 (h)(4) of this title, but does not include solely emotional or psychological harm to the victim;
(2) the term “explosive or incendiary device” has the meaning given such term in section 232 of this title;
(3) the term “firearm” has the meaning given such term in section 921 (a) of this title;
(4) the term “gender identity” means actual or perceived gender-related characteristics; and
(5) the term “State” includes the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and any other territory or possession of the United States.
(d) Statute of Limitations.—
(1) Offenses not resulting in death.— Except as provided in paragraph (2), no person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any offense under this section unless the indictment for such offense is found, or the information for such offense is instituted, not later than 7 years after the date on which the offense was committed.
(2) Death resulting offenses.— An indictment or information alleging that an offense under this section resulted in death may be found or instituted at any time without limitation.

Source

(Added and amended Pub. L. 111–84, div. E, §§ 4707(a), 4711,Oct. 28, 2009, 123 Stat. 2838, 2842.)
Amendments

2009—Subsec. (a)(4). Pub. L. 111–84, § 4711, added par. (4).
Severability

Pub. L. 111–84, div. E, § 4709,Oct. 28, 2009, 123 Stat. 2841, provided that: “If any provision of this division [enacting this section and section 1389 of this title and sections 3716 and 3716a of Title 42, The Public Health and Welfare, amending this section, enacting provisions set out as notes under this section and section 3716 of Title 42, and amending provisions set out as a note under section 534 and provisions listed in a table relating to sentencing guidelines set out under section 994 of Title 28, Judiciary and Judicial Procedure], an amendment made by this division, or the application of such provision or amendment to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this division, the amendments made by this division, and the application of the provisions of such to any person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.”
Rule of Construction

Pub. L. 111–84, div. E, § 4710,Oct. 28, 2009, 123 Stat. 2841, provided that: “For purposes of construing this division [see Severability note above] and the amendments made by this division the following shall apply:
“(1) In general.—Nothing in this division shall be construed to allow a court, in any criminal trial for an offense described under this division or an amendment made by this division, in the absence of a stipulation by the parties, to admit evidence of speech, beliefs, association, group membership, or expressive conduct unless that evidence is relevant and admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence. Nothing in this division is intended to affect the existing rules of evidence.
“(2) Violent acts.—This division applies to violent acts motivated by actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of a victim.
“(3) Construction and application.—Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed or applied in a manner that infringes any rights under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Nor shall anything in this division, or an amendment made by this division, be construed or applied in a manner that substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), speech, expression, or association, unless the Government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest, if such exercise of religion, speech, expression, or association was not intended to—
“(A) plan or prepare for an act of physical violence; or
“(B) incite an imminent act of physical violence against another.
“(4) Free expression.—Nothing in this division shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.
“(5) First amendment.—Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed to diminish any rights under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
“(6) Constitutional protections.—Nothing in this division shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution of the United States does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.”
Findings

Pub. L. 111–84, div. E, § 4702,Oct. 28, 2009, 123 Stat. 2835, provided that: “Congress makes the following findings:
“(1) The incidence of violence motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim poses a serious national problem.
“(2) Such violence disrupts the tranquility and safety of communities and is deeply divisive.
“(3) State and local authorities are now and will continue to be responsible for prosecuting the overwhelming majority of violent crimes in the United States, including violent crimes motivated by bias. These authorities can carry out their responsibilities more effectively with greater Federal assistance.
“(4) Existing Federal law is inadequate to address this problem.
“(5) A prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that it devastates not just the actual victim and the family and friends of the victim, but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused the victim to be selected.
“(6) Such violence substantially affects interstate commerce in many ways, including the following:
“(A) The movement of members of targeted groups is impeded, and members of such groups are forced to move across State lines to escape the incidence or risk of such violence.
“(B) Members of targeted groups are prevented from purchasing goods and services, obtaining or sustaining employment, or participating in other commercial activity.
“(C) Perpetrators cross State lines to commit such violence.
“(D) Channels, facilities, and instrumentalities of interstate commerce are used to facilitate the commission of such violence.
“(E) Such violence is committed using articles that have traveled in interstate commerce.
“(7) For generations, the institutions of slavery and involuntary servitude were defined by the race, color, and ancestry of those held in bondage. Slavery and involuntary servitude were enforced, both prior to and after the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, through widespread public and private violence directed at persons because of their race, color, or ancestry, or perceived race, color, or ancestry. Accordingly, eliminating racially motivated violence is an important means of eliminating, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery and involuntary servitude.
“(8) Both at the time when the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States were adopted, and continuing to date, members of certain religious and national origin groups were and are perceived to be distinct ‘races’. Thus, in order to eliminate, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery, it is necessary to prohibit assaults on the basis of real or perceived religions or national origins, at least to the extent such religions or national origins were regarded as races at the time of the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
“(9) Federal jurisdiction over certain violent crimes motivated by bias enables Federal, State, and local authorities to work together as partners in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.
“(10) The problem of crimes motivated by bias is sufficiently serious, widespread, and interstate in nature as to warrant Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes.”
[For definitions of “State” and “local” used in section 4702 ofPub. L. 111–84, set out above, see section 4703(b) ofPub. L. 111–84, set out as a note under section 3716 of Title 42, The Public Health and Welfare.]

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18 USCDescription of ChangeSession YearPublic LawStatutes at Large

 

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