The Definition of Hate Crimes
Although the term, "Hate Crimes", is the most frequently used term throughout the U.S., the true definitions may differ depending on the jurisdiction and/or state you reside in. In the State of Texas if someone commits a crime against your person, or commits arson, criminal mischief, or graffiti to your property, and the person intentionally selected you because of their bias or prejudice against your race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference or by your status as a peace officer or judge, that crime could be prosecuted as a hate crime. In addition, under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Protection Act, there may be additional protected classes including being targeted because of your gender identity.
Crimes with Bias Elements occur when the victim is threatened, assaulted, robbed, has their property damaged, etc., by a suspect when, during the commission of the crime, any comments are made directly and/or indirectly that relate to the suspect's perception of the victim's race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference, or by the victim’s status as a peace officer or judge, and those comments appear to be a motivation for the crime. The victim should follow the same protocol in calling 9-1-1 and reporting the incident.
Bias Incidents are non-criminal situations that do not fall within the above listed categories. Bias incidents are where a subject uses/directs offensive words at an individual and/or group during constitutionally protected free speech and the actor does not accompany those words with direct threats and/or actions. Recipient(s) consider the speech offensive.
You do not need to know what category your incident belongs in to report a hate crime. Call 9-1-1 if you are the victim of a crime, or would like to report your incident to the police.