Cook County State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine announced the approval of the Hate Crimes Bill drafted by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. On March 12, 2001, the Illinois House of Representatives – Judicial Division and Criminal Law Committee approved of the bill, which aimed to amend the Illinois Hate Crimes Act in order to penalize those individuals who encourage and influence their followers to commit hate crimes.
The Hate Crimes Bill, H.B. 136, drafted by the Office is kindly sponsored in the House by Rep. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), among several others, who are set to vote on in the House within the week. The drafted bill was drawn from a 60-year-old federal law and was made to clarify the existing statutes, such that investigators and prosecutors would be able to seek more rigid and set penalties for repeat offenders, as well as to constitute the bill to include penalties for individuals promoting hate crime.
Cook County State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine expressed the need of the County for such bill. “The tragic hate crimes of July 1999 illuminated shortcomings in the Illinois hate crime law. We believe this bill will close the loopholes that let white supremacists, gang members or any group which advocates violence, operate in such a way as to put the community at risk,” said State’s Attorney Devine.
Hate crimes traumatize victims, as well as tear communities apart. As such, law enforcement officials and prosecutors target crimes classified as a hate crime. In line with this, House Bill 136, also known as the Hate Crimes Bill, constitutes the following as a crime:
- Conspiracy Against Civil Rights – This statute makes it unlawful for two or more individuals to conspire to use violence, such as to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any other person of any state, territory, or district in order to interfere or that which interferes with his/her free exercise of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution of the laws of the United States. First offenses made under this crime can be classified under Class 4 Felony – a probational offense that may impose one to three years of prison term. Otherwise, offenses under this crime are classified as Class 2 Felony – a probational offense that may impose three to seven years of prison term.
- Mixed Motives – Hate crimes often present special inquisition of mixed-motive – implying that the offender may have had more than one motivating factor for the hate crime. Research demonstrates that hate crime offenses often include multiple motivations; however, it has not been uniformly held by prosecutors throughout the state. As such, the ratifications made and incorporated into the House Bill 136 shall clarify that hate crime can be made of charge regardless of the existence of any other motivating factor/s and shall be more consistently enforced across the state.
The bill further clarifies and amend the existing statutes to update penalties made under the hate crimes bill, transforming it into more stern and precise retribution and sanction.
- Penalties for Hate Crimes Committed in Safe Zones – There is an increase in the penalties appropriated for hate crime offenses committed to, or made within 1,000 feet of a place deemed as a safe zone. These safe zones constitute a place used for religious worship or community center, a school or educational facility, a cemetery, an ethnic community center, or a public park. A first offense, under this provision, is classified as a Class 3 Felony – a probational offense that may impose two to five years of prison term. Subsequent offenses are then classified as Class 1 Felony, which carries four to 15 years of prison term.
- Mandatory Fines and Community Service – The new provision declares that offenders indicted of hate crimes must be required by the court to settle a fine of up to $1,000. It further notes that defendants with probationary status or conditional discharge must serve at least 200 hours of community service in retribution.
- Penalties for Repeat Offenders – Repeat offenders of hate crime offenders are now deemed ineligible for probationary status or conditional discharge and must serve by incarceration.
House Bill 136 – Hate Crimes Bill is sponsored in the Senate by State Sen. Ira Silverstein. Currently, it awaits voting on the House floor.
Updated: October 9, 2020