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Some Further Thoughts on "Thought Crimes"

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Ethics Volume: 11 Issue: 2 Dated: Summer/Fall 1992 Pages: 61-63
James Weinstein
Date Published
3 pages
This article examines several points of view on "thought crimes" and "sentence enhancement."
The article takes issue with the claim that "all sentencing enhancement laws do is punish the holding of political or social attitudes that the government deems offensive or unacceptable." In failing to deal with the various justifications for enhancement, not as interests sufficient to allow infringement of core First Amendment rights, but as evidence that enhancement serves some purpose other than punishing a person for his beliefs, holders of that opinion both beg the question and create a strawman. The article claims that perhaps the most powerful and straightforward rationale for enhancement is prevention of the "in terrorem" effect often caused by racial violence. The article suggests the importance of determining the level of scrutiny that should apply to laws which do not in terms single out crimes committed with racist as opposed to racial motivation but nonetheless will apply in almost every case to crimes motivated by race hatred, not mere race consciousness. Notes