Just Say No to a Federal Hate Crimes Law
Crimes committed out of hatred or bigotry toward the characteristics of any individual or group cannot be tolerated. They must be condemned in the strongest possible language. Law enforcement must be encouraged to prosecute such crimes to the fullest extent of our criminal laws. Yet, whether we should enact more criminal laws with stiffer penalties and which would authorize greater intrusion into our constitutionally protected areas of free speech, free thought, free association, and personal privacy, is a matter that should be studied carefully and thoroughly before any action is taken.
Legislation expanding the current federal hate crime law, and the role of the federal government in prosecuting such crime, threatens to erode our cherished individual rights to free speech, thought and association, the right to privacy, and the right to Justice and Due Process of law (including fair trials and punishments).
Let us not enact laws out of grief and passion, or in response to a singular criminal event, however horrific it might be. Cooler heads are needed where our fundamental liberties are at stake.
Every sexual assault felony in Colorado already carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. First degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole. We also (hopefully not much longer) have the death penalty.
What more do people want? Life plus cancer? I'm sure they do, but I hope they don't get their way.
As TChris wrote here, hate crimes laws come dangerously close to punishing thought, and freedom of thought is the foundation for all other freedoms. Change the civil laws if need be and make sure that police investigate and prosecutors charge crimes appropriately -- with financial assistance from the feds if need be. But there's no need for the Feds to get further involved in prosecuting state crimes and there's no need for increased penalties, especially when they are based on one's thought processes.
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