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Understanding Maryland’s hate crimes law

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2023 | Felonies

Most states have some type of hate crime law, as does the federal government. These laws typically make crimes committed against people or property that are based on bias against a protected status (whether actual or perceived) eligible for more serious consequences. 

Maryland takes the problem of hate crimes very seriously. In fact, the attorney general’s hate crime task force, which was scheduled to disband in 2024, was just given permanent status. It’s now called the Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention. The legislation that created it states that its purpose is to “develop strategies to prevent and respond to hate crime activity and evaluate state laws and policies relating to hate crimes.”

Under Maryland law, what makes an action a hate crime is if it’s “[m]otivated either in whole or in substantial part by another person’s or group’s race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, or national origin, or because another person or group is homeless….”

What offenses are covered under the law?

The statute applies to criminal activity itself as well as threatened crimes. In addition to assaults and other violent crimes, crimes involving destroying or defacing property are often aimed at people or institutions (like churches or other places of worship) because of the people who own or use them.

The law covers action someone takes or even attempts to “deface, damage, or destroy the real or personal property of that person or group” or to “burn an object on the real or personal property of that person or group.”

That means an arson crime, for example, can carry additional consequences if the property burned is a synagogue, mosque or African-American church or the home of someone targeted because of their identity.

The Maryland statute also covers intentionally making false statements (verbally or in writing) to authorities about someone “with the intent to deceive and to cause an investigation or other action to be taken as a result of the statement, report, or complaint….”

If you or a loved one is facing a hate crime charge, regardless of whether they knew or believed that the victim was in a protected category, it’s crucial to seek experienced legal guidance. People often get caught up in activities they didn’t intend to be part of or are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whatever the situation, it’s important to protect your rights and have your side of the story heard.