How does a victim's identity affect assault charges?

When a person receives assault charges after an altercation, many aspects of that interaction may play into the charges' severity, often producing more severe consequences than the suspect expected. This is especially true when another party in the conflict is a member of a protected group of people.

The identity of a victim may increase the charges significantly, leading to surprising sentencing in the event of conviction. Violent crimes such as assault already carry harsher sentences than similar non-violent crimes, and the addition of some factors like a protected-class victim can raise the level of charges significantly, sometimes even from a misdemeanor to a felony.

If you or someone you love recently received assault charges involving a victim of a protected class, then you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Without a strong legal defense, you may receive much harsher consequences than the circumstances really merit, or may receive a hefty conviction after what would usually amount to a mere misunderstanding between two or more people. Professional legal counsel helps you understand the issues at stake and protect your rights while you fight for justice.

Assault against protected groups

In an effort to discourage hate crimes, the law treats many threatening acts toward members of a protected group as possibly motivated by hate for that group. These sentencing guidelines are meant to deter those who might commit a hate crime from doing so, but sometimes apply to others who are not motivated by hate.

Most reasonable people understand that legitimate conflicts can arise between individuals that have nothing to do with either party's identity. Practically speaking, if you and a member of another race get into an argument at a bar because one or both of you are a few drinks in and acting foolishly, that's not innately hateful.

A conflict may have nothing to do with race or some other protected status, like sexuality or religious views. It could be about something completely unrelated, like a fantasy football bracket that suddenly and spectacularly falls apart in a surprise upset by the other person's team.

Unfortunately, the law may not immediately recognize the difference. You may need special guidance to build a defense and ensure that you can resolve this conflict fairly by addressing the issues at hand instead of the perceived motivations of one or both parties.

Don't wait to build a defense

While protecting certain groups under the law has intellectual merit and aims to create a more just world for everyone, the laws that uphold this idea are fallible, and sometimes perpetrate injustice along the way.

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