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Hate Crimes

The North Carolina Department of Justice works to protect the people of North Carolina and keep them safe from all types of crime.
That includes working to prevent and protect people from hate crimes, which are rising nationally and in North Carolina. Unfortunately, hate crimes, and what state and federal governments can do about them, are often misunderstood.
While the Department of Justice cannot prosecute cases on behalf of a private citizen, we can inform North Carolinians about hate crimes.

What is a Hate Crime?

According to the FBI, a hate crime is a traditional offense with an added element of bias.
At their core, hate crimes happen because the perpetrators want to create widespread fear. They usually don’t know their victim. These offenders are seeking out and targeting people specifically related to a bias.
The vulnerability and fear this incites among entire groups is unacceptable and we must do all we can to stop it.
There are some important distinctions to note about hate crimes:
  • Hate, by itself, is not a crime. The United States and North Carolina constitutions protect freedom of speech and other rights. This is why bias incidents on their own are not a hate crime. A bias incident is conduct, speech, or other behavior that is harassing or disrespectful and targets a person or group because of prejudice against them, but does not rise to criminal behavior.
  • A hate crime is still a hate crime even if the perpetrator is not specifically targeting the victim’s own race or background. It is a violation if the offender committed the crime because he/she associates their victim with a race or ethnic background the defendant doesn’t like.
Under North Carolina law, prosecutors cannot prosecute an offense as a hate crime. However, if the individual is convicted of an offense (e.g. murder, vandalism) that was committed due to certain bias factors, current hate crime statutes can be used to increase punishment during sentencing. 

What Statutes Govern Hate Crimes?

In North Carolina, it is illegal to assault another person or damage or deface the property of another person, or threaten to do any such act, because of race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin (N.C.G.S. § 14.401.14). North Carolina statutes currently do not protect people who have been victims of crime due to their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  
North Carolina law also allows stronger punishments when the below actions occur:
  • Placing a burning or flaming cross on the property of another, a public street, highway, or any public place, without permission or with the intent of intimidation. (§ 14-12.12)
  • Placing an exhibit with intention of intimidating another. (§ 14-12.13)
  • Placing an exhibit while wearing a mask, hood, or other disguise. (§ 14-12.14)
  • Burning of churches and certain other religious buildings. (§ 14-62.2)                    
  • Ethnic intimidation; teaching any technique to be used for ethnic intimidation (§ 14-401.14)
  • Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is illegal in North Carolina and may occur because of the victim’s race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin.
    • Class 1 misdemeanor: if the defendant was 18 or older at the time of the offense.
    • Class 2 misdemeanor: if the defendant was younger than 18.
While North Carolina prosecutors cannot prosecute hate crimes, the federal government can.
The FBI is the lead investigative agency for criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes. The bureau works closely with its local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners around the country in many of these cases. The federal government also collects and reports nationwide data about hate crimes, and defines what classifies as a federal hate crime.
There are several federal statutes that may protect you if you are the victim of a hate crime. Click here to learn more about them.

What are the statistics around hate crimes?

In 2017, there were 166 reported hate crimes in North Carolina. That included:
  • 114 race/ethnicity/ancestry bias motivation incidents
  • 24 religious bias motivation incidents
  • 24 sexual orientation bias motivation incidents
  • 4 disability bias motivation incidents
  • 0 gender/gender identity bias motivation incidents
Access more information on North Carolina hate crime incidents and 2017 hate crime statistics from the FBI.
It’s important to note that hate crimes are often underreported, often because people don’t know they are a reportable offense, or because they do not feel comfortable reporting the offense.

What do I do if I or someone I know was the victim of a hate crime?

Report it:
  • Write down the details of the event, including when and where the incident occurred, what happened, the appearance of the defendant, etc.
  • Report the incident to the following:
    • Local law enforcement
    • North Carolina Human Relations Commission (919-431-3000) (The North Carolina Human Relations Commission is not a law enforcement organization but does tracking and reporting on hate crimes.)
    • Southern Poverty Law Center (The Southern Poverty Law Center is not a law enforcement organization or government agency, but does substantial tracking and reporting on hate crimes.)
Note: The North Carolina Department of Justice cannot represent private citizens in legal matters.

Want to learn more about hate crimes?

Visit the following resources: