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NCJ Number
Criminal Law Bulletin Volume: 29 Issue: 2 Dated: (March-April 1993) Pages: 99-123
J B Jacobs; B Eisler
Date Published
25 pages
This analysis of the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 concludes that its greatest significance is its potential impact on how we think about crime and intergroup relations in American society and that the law will be difficult to implement reliably.
The law has received relatively little attention from criminal lawyers and criminologists, probably because of its lack of impact on criminal cases. However, the law has the potential to influence public attitudes, because it recognizes hate crime as a new type of criminal offense, in effect establishing a new societal indicator of certain types of prejudice. The law specifies four categories of prejudice that transform an ordinary crime into a hate crime: those based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. It requires statistics on eight crimes: murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation, arson, and property damage or destruction. The training guide prepared by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Section lists factors the police officer should consider in determining whether a crime qualifies as a suspected bias incident. The second step in the labeling process involves a review officer's or unit's analysis, based on objective facts. Implementing the law will be difficult, and local police agencies may experience pressure to exercise their hate crime reporting discretion narrowly or broadly. Differences between Federal and State guidelines may also confuse the Federal data collection efforts. Thus, the law, although well- intentioned, will not provide accurate or comprehensive data on hate crime and will do little or nothing toward preventing or solving this type of crime.