Hate Crimes and the Blue Lives Matter Law

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In the 2016 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, La. R.S. 14:107.2 was revised to amend paragraph A and add paragraph E via Act No. 184, H.B. 953 by Representative Lance Harris.  The change to paragraph A added the following phrase “or because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel” to the motivations which can qualify a crime as a hate crime.  Paragraph E included definitions of emergency medical services personnel, firefighter, and law enforcement officer.  For the purposes of this discussion, law enforcement officer is defined as follows:

“an active or retired city, parish, or state law enforcement officer, peace officer, sheriff, deputy sheriff, probation or parole officer, marshal, deputy, wildlife enforcement agent, state correctional officer, or commissioned agent of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, as well as a federal law enforcement officer or employee, whose permanent duties include making arrests, performing search and seizures, execution fo criminal arrest warrants, execution of civil seizure warrants, any civil functions performed by sheriffs or deputy sheriffs, enforcement of penal or traffic laws, or the care, custody, control, or supervision of inmates.”

There have been a few missteps in the application of this law.  On September 5, 2016, the perpetrator of criminal damage to a French Quarter hotel was charged with violating La. R.S. 14:107.2 based on racial and gender slurs used against the arresting officer.  On October 26, 2016, another individual was charged with violating La. R.S. 14:107.2 with the underlying crime being terrorizing when he told the 911 operator that “he was going to shoot and kill any officer that responded to the call.”  Neither of these charges made it very far.  The charge was refused by the District Attorney in the September 5, 2016 case and the Magistrate dismissed the hate crime charge and the terrorizing charge in the September 5, 2016 case, opting for La. R.S. 14:59, criminal mischief, instead.

What constitutes a hate crime?

As with any other crime, La. R.S. 14:107.2 hate crimes, has necessary elements that must be met.  The law reads as follows:

It shall be unlawful for any person to select the victim of the following offenses against person and property because of actual or perceived race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry of that person or the owner or occupant of that property or because of actual or perceived membership or service in, or employment with, an organization, or because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel: first or second degree murder; manslaughter; battery; aggravated battery; second degree battery; aggravated assault with a firearm; terrorizing; mingling harmful substances; simple or third degree rape, forcible or second degree rape, or aggravated or first degree rape; sexual battery, second degree sexual battery; oral sexual battery; carnal knowledge of a juvenile; indecent behavior with juveniles; molestation of a juvenile or a person with a physical or mental disability; simple, second degree, or aggravated kidnapping; simple or aggravated arson; communicating of false information of planned arson; simple or aggravated criminal damage to property; contamination of water supplies; simple or aggravated burglary; criminal trespass; simple, first degree, or armed robbery; purse snatching; extortion; theft; desecration of graves; institutional vandalism; or assault by drive-by shooting.

Therefore, the elements of the crime are:

  1. A person
  2. must select a victim
  3. of one of the enumerated offenses
  4. because of
    1. actual or perceived race, or
    2. age, or
    3. gender, or
    4. religion, or
    5. color, or
    6. creed, or
    7. disability, or
    8. sexual orientation, or
    9. national origin, or
    10. ancestry of that person or the owner or occupant of that property, or
    11. actual or perceived membership or service in, or employment with, an organization, or
    12. because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel.
  5. The enumerated crimes are:
    1. first or second degree murder, or
    2. manslaughter, or
    3. battery, or
    4. aggravated battery, or
    5. second degree battery, or
    6. aggravated assault with a firearm, or
    7. terrorizing, or
    8. mingling harmful substances, or
    9. simple or third degree rape, or
    10. forcible or second degree rape, or
    11. aggravated or first degree rape, or
    12. sexual battery, or
    13. second degree sexual battery, or
    14. oral sexual battery, or
    15. carnal knowledge of a juvenile, or
    16. indecent behavior with juveniles, or
    17. molestation of a juvenile or a person with physical or mental disability, or
    18. simple or aggravated criminal damage to property, or
    19. contamination of water supplies, or
    20. simple or aggravated burglary, or
    21. criminal trespass, or
    22. simple, first degree, or armed robbery, or
    23. purse snatching, or
    24. extortion, or
    25. theft, or
    26. desecration of graves, or
    27. institutional vandalism, or
    28. assault by drive-by shooting.

This law is, by necessity, a specific intent crime.  Violation of La. R.S. 14:107.2 results in an additional penalty that runs consecutively with the underlying offense.  So, in order to charge someone with a violation of La. R.S. 14:107.2, the officer must have probable cause to believe that the offender violated the underlying offense and then that they selected the victim of the crime based on the reasons listed in the statute (4(a)-4(l) above).

It is not enough that the victim has specific traits or associations.  The victim must be chosen for that reason.  In the September 5, 2016 incident, the offender allegedly committed the crime of simple criminal damage to property by breaking some windows at the Royal Sonesta hotel in New Orleans’s French Quarter.  The offender also made some racially offensive comments to a security guard and other rude and insensitive remarks to the female officer who made the arrest.  Being an ass does not make one guilty of a hate crime.  Furthermore, even if the comments which led to this charge were sufficient to constitute resisting arrest, it is still not a hate crime.  Resisting arrest is not, in and of itself, a hate crime.

Example of what could be considered a hate crime:

John Doe, a sovereign citizen, is sitting at home seething about how much he dislikes law enforcement officers.  He knows that active and retired law enforcement officers gather at the FOP lodge.  He grabs his firearm of choice and heads over the FOP lodge where he opens fire, striking nobody.

Example of what is not a hate crime:

John Doe, a sovereign citizen, is having a few beers, walking around the neighborhood harassing people.  The police are summoned to the area and decide to arrest Mr. Doe for public intoxication.  When the police attempt to apply handcuffs, Doe says “I hate you law enforcement professionals and there is no way you are putting those cuffs on me.”  He then proceeds to fight like the dickens, but is ultimately subdued and incarcerated.

The Legislature, the Governor, and the people of Louisiana sent a powerful message in passing the law that they support law enforcement and appreciate the dangers our law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers face.  However, officers must be circumspect in its application.  Officers and the community alike would be better served if this statute were reserved for those unprovoked attacks on police officers that are unrelated to any action taken by the officers.

In any event, if an officer finds himself inclined to charge someone with a hate crime, against a law enforcement officer or any of the other protected classes, that officer should ensure that he can articulate probable cause establishing that the offender specifically intended to commit one of the enumerated crimes because the victim fit one of the protected classes listed in the statute.  This usually involves a more in-depth investigation into the motivation of the perpetrator.  It may be a good idea to consult with the District Attorney prior to charging anyone with violating La. R.S. 14:107.2.  If there is any difficulty articulating the probable cause necessary to demonstrate that the perpetrator intentionally chose the victim of one of the enumerated crimes because the victim was part of a protected class, then perhaps it would be better to consult with the District Attorney and let them add the charge via grand jury or bill of information.

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