In 1968, the U.S. Congress defined a hate crime as an offense in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the offense, because of their race, color or national origin (Title 18 U.S.C Section 245). Federal bias crime laws enacted subsequently have provided additional coverage. These laws include:
- The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA) authorized the Justice Department to collect data from law enforcement agencies about crimes that “manifest evidence of prejudice based upon race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” The Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act would amend (HCSA) to include homeless persons as a protected class.
- The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, enacted as a section of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, defines hate crimes as “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.” This measure only applies to attacks and vandalism that occur in national parks and on federal property.
- HCSA requires the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor and record data from law enforcement agencies on any crime classified as a hate crime in addition to publishing an annual report summarizing their findings.
- The Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Enforcement Act would amend the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to include homeless persons as a protected class, making any targeted act of violence due to homeless status classifiable as a hate crime.