Hate Crimes in Texas: Proving Intent Is Difficult

Proving Intent Is DifficultTexas law defines a hate crime as a crime that targets or is carried out against a person or group of people because of their status. Hate crimes are often violent in nature and can be based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political affiliation, economic status, disability and even age.

From 2010 to 2015, 981 potential hate crime cases were reported to Texas police. Out of those, only eight convictions were discovered when the nonprofit organization ProPublica looked into Texas criminal records. Why is it that hate crime accusations rarely lead to convictions?

Hate Crimes Are Hard to Prove

Many of the cases were dismissed due to a lack of evidence, or evidence that the crimes did not actually happen. Other cases fail to produce an arrest and go unsolved as a result. But there is widespread agreement throughout the criminal justice community that one thing is true in the vast majority of hate crime cases: it is extremely difficult to prove intent on the part of the accused.

Because of the difficulty of proving intent, many prosecutors will elect not to pursue the enhancement of a crime to a hate crime. Some prosecutors may decide that it’s more advantageous to seek harsher sentences for crimes without the added difficulty of proving intent to escalate them to hate crimes. Some police simply aren’t trained to build a hate crime case, and in particularly egregious crimes (like murder), escalating a charge to hate crime status will not make the potential sentencing any harsher. That’s not to say that hate crime convictions never happen – they do – but typically, these crimes resolve in different ways, if they resolve at all.


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