Asked/Answered is a weekly feature for reader-submitted questions. Follow the blog online at www.cumberlink.com:
How many people in Cumberland County have been charged with a hate crime?
Since the 1980s Pennsylvania has a hate crime law that aims to increase penalties for certain bias-based crimes.
Under current law, a person can be charged with ethnic intimidation if they commit certain underlying offenses like harassment, assault or arson with the malicious intent toward a person’s, or group’s, race, color, religion or national origin.
Ethnic intimidation is one grade level higher than the underlying offense. So, if a person is charged with summary harassment during a biased based incident, the ethnic intimidation charge would be classified as a third-degree misdemeanor.
However, the law is very seldom used.
Since the beginning of 2010, the charge has only been used eight times in Cumberland County, according to an analysis of court records conducted by The Sentinel.
No one was charged with the crime in Cumberland County in 2016, 2014 and 2013, according to court records.
All eight of the defendants were listed as men.
Nearly all, seven of the eight, defendants also had their race listed as white. Only one defendant had his race listed as black.
Pennsylvania’s ethnic intimidation law was amended in 2002 to include protections against crimes based on a person’s actual or perceived mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.
Roughly a decade ago that amendment was deemed to be unconstitutional by the state judiciary because of the way the law was passed through the legislature.
Several bills have been introduced in the legislature to reinstate those protections since, but none have garnered enough support to become law.
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