GA Hate Crimes Law Unconstitutionally Vague

by TChris

The Georgia Supreme Court declared the state's hate crimes law unconstitutional today on the ground of vagueness. The court ruled that the law's broad language "fails to comport with the ascertainable standards required by the due process rights guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions."

The hate crime law enhances a criminal sentence when it is determined beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant intentionally selected a victim or the victim's property as the object of an offense "because of bias or prejudice." "We recognize that persons of ordinary intelligence may understand the dictionary definition of the words 'bias' and 'prejudice,'" the ruling said. "However, because of the broad signification of these words and the absence of any specific context in which a person's bias or prejudice may apply in order to narrow the construction of these concepts, we find that [the hate crime law] fails to provide fair warning of the conduct it prohibits."

The court apparently declined to give the law a limiting construction by attaching the word "racial" to the word "bias." The state senator who sponsored the law intends to introduce a clearer version in the next legislative session.

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