Even the most even-tempered people have a breaking point. When confrontations occur, they can quickly turn ugly. Some may make threats of physical violence and/or perform acts of physical violence, and someone calls the police.
Your involvement in such an altercation could land you in a jail cell charged with assault and/or battery. However, under certain circumstances, you could end up facing penalties that are even more serious.
Who the victim was makes a difference
Simply getting into a fight may not result in such serious penalties, but if the other party involved was a member of a legally protected group of people possessing certain traits, authorities may categorize what happened as a hate crime. The protected groups in question include the following commonalities:
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- National origin
- Advanced age
- Homeless status
- Mental or physical disability
If police believe you entered into an altercation with an individual, perhaps it was because you hated him or her because he or she possessed one or more of the above characteristics. With all of the incidents in recent history in which someone victimized another person in one of these protected groups, out of hatred, police may be particularly sensitive to any crime that may fit this profile.
You may not have given a second thought to whether the other party belongs to one or more of these protected groups, but that does not mean authorities will spare you from these types of allegations. If your “fight” turns into a hate crime by authorities and the public, your future is in serious jeopardy.
The court of public opinion
Part of the problem with assaults and/or batteries, murders and other such crimes, including allegations of a hate crime, is the “court of public opinion.” The media usually grabs onto these cases, which means you will already have a strike against you if you end up in court. Allegations that you held a hatred for someone just because of their religion, color of their skin or gender may appall you, but that does not mean you should not take a hate crime charge seriously.
You are not only fighting for your freedom but also for your personal and professional lives. Vilification in the public eye could do irreparable damage to you, which means you will need to battle harder to find your way back. You would probably benefit greatly from working with an aggressive and experienced criminal defense attorney to resolve the situation in the best possible way under the circumstances.