North Carolina Hate Crime Laws

Hate crimes represent a distinct category of criminal acts



CRIMINAL ACTS North Carolina Hate Crime Laws Hate crimes represent a distinct category of criminal acts that are motivated by bias. North Carolina hate crime laws target bias based on “race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin,” and provide enhanced or aggravated penalties for crimes committed “because of” these protected characteristics.

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Types of Hate Crimes

Hate crimes fall into two general categories. The oldest category spring from so-called “anti-Klan” laws and were designed to curb the violent and intimidating conduct of the Ku Klux Klan. These statutes criminalized specific activities such as cross-burning, vandalism, the wearing of masks and hoods, and organizing secret societies. Although many of these statutes have been repealed or modernized, many are still in effect today, such as North Carolina’s statute outlawing unauthorized cross burning.

The second, more modern category of hate-crime laws focus on the offender’s motivation, rather than specific activities. These laws enumerate protected groups of victims and require proof that the offending act was committed because of the offender’s bias against the victim. In simple terms, modern hate crimes are crimes motivated by bias.

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Federal Hate Crimes

The federal government and North Carolina define the classes of protected victims differently. The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Federal prosecution of bias-motivated conduct may occur under a variety of federal statutes, including:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 241 – conspiracy to deprive another of federally-protected rights;
  • 18 U.S.C. § 245 – violent interference with federally-protected rights;
  • 42 U.S.C.§ 3631 – criminal interference with right to fair housing;
  • 18 U.S.C. § 247 – Church Arson Prevention Act; and
  • 18 U.S.C. § 249 – The Shepard Byrd Act.

Even if the federal government decides not to prosecute under a federal hate-crime statute, the defendant’s bias may still be used to impose an enhanced sentence under the United States Sentencing Guidelines.

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Punishments for Hate Crimes in North Carolina

North Carolina uses structured sentencing, meaning that the range of possible sentences for convicted offenders varies depending on the severity of the crime and the offender’s prior convictions. The severity of the crime is denoted by its class, represented by letters and numbers. Misdemeanor offenses are separated into four classes, A1, 1, 2, or 3, with A1 being the most serious. Felony offenses are classified by letters A to I, with A being the most serious.

Any Class 2 or Class 3 misdemeanor committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin is elevated to a Class 1 misdemeanor. Likewise, any Class A1 or Class 1 misdemeanor committed because of the victim’s protected characteristic is elevated to a Class H felony, which carries a maximum punishment of 39 months. As a Class 1 misdemeanor, ethnic intimidation under Section 14-401.14(a) carries a maximum punishment of 120 days incarceration.

Felony sentencing also considers certain aggravating or mitigating factors, and North Carolina law allows a trial court to “aggravate” a sentence if the offense is motivated by bias. An aggravated sentence is selected from a higher range of permissible punishments thereby increasing the length of incarceration.

§ 14-401.14.  Ethnic intimidation; teaching any technique to be used for ethnic intimidation.

(a)        If a person shall, because of race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin, assault another person, or damage or deface the property of another person, or threaten to do any such act, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

(b)        A person who assembles with one or more persons to teach any technique or means to be used to commit any act in violation of subsection (a) of this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. (1991, c. 493, s. 1; 1993, c. 332, s. 1; c. 539, s. 283; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 14, s. 14(b); c. 24, s. 14(c); 1995, c. 509, s. 10.)


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hate crime VICTIMS

Local FBI field office

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety oversees programs for victim services.