Changes to Md. hate crime law go into effect October 1st

MARYLAND – A new law is changing the way hate crimes are prosecuted in the state of Maryland. “The change in the law helps us establish that there are a myriad or factors and maybe not just one,” said State’s Attorney for Wicomico County Jamie Dykes.

2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins the III Law goes into effect October 1st. “We don’t have to prove that it was because of that or solely because of that. The words of the statute now talk about a crime that’s motivated either in whole or in substantial part,” said State’s Attorney for Dorchester County William Jones.

Previously, prosecutors had to prove that a crime was entirely motivated by hatred against race, color, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, disability or national origin. State’s Attorney Dykes says that although this new law opens up avenues for how hate crimes are prosecuted, the challenge of meeting their burden of proof is still there. “We can never really know the intent of a person or what is in a person’s mind. We must look to circumstances, their acts, their omissions,” said State’s Attorney Dykes.

State’s Attorney Jones says that with the new law – there will likely be different expectations from the community when it comes to determining whether or not a crime can be called a hate crime. “The expectation is likely to be that we are going to prosecute many more of those. But we treat every case, case by case, and we have to look at that case and figure out can we actually prove that?” said State’s Attorney Jones.

State’s Attorney Jones also says that prosecuting under the new law will require more communication with community members while going through the prosecution process. “What that requires as prosecutors is that we effectively communicate with our victims, witnesses, and the community so that those expectations are managed properly,” said State’s Attorney Jones.

Maryland is also banning putting items or symbols like a noose or swastika on someone else’s property to without permission in order to intimidate them. Maryland is also going to require more police training to recognize, report, and respond to hate crimes. You can read the bill here.

Categories: Local News, Maryland