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What is a Hate Crime

In the simplest terms, a hate crime must include both “hate” and a "crime." The term "hate" can be misleading. When used in a hate crime law, the word "hate" does not mean rage, anger, or general dislike. In this context “hate” means bias against people or groups with specific characteristics that are defined by the law.

At the federal level, hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

The hate crime law in Illinois includes crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin of an individual or group of individuals

A the federal level, the "crime" in hate crime is often a violent crime, such as assault, murder, vandalism, or threats to commit such crimes. It may also cover conspiring or asking another person to commit such crimes, even if the crime was never carried out. 

The hate crime law in Illinois also includes some nonviolent crimes, such as theft, stalking or cyberstalking, harassment by telephone, email, or social media, trespassing or damaging property, or disorderly conduct.

Sources: the U.S. Department of Justice Webpage "Learn About Hate Crimes" and the Illinois Attorney General's Office "Civil Rights Bureau Webpage"