Activists have demanded hate crime charges be brought against a man charged with stabbing a Peoria teen. But some might be surprised to learn Arizona does not have a specific criminal charge for hate crimes.
Michael Paul Adams is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Elijah Al-Amin. Police records say Adams stabbed Elijah for playing rap music. And he reportedly told them he felt threatened because he had been attacked by minorities who listen to similar music.
Activists believe this means the crime was racially-motivated and want this case to be prosecuted as a hate crime.
Arizona does not have a specific criminal charge for hate crimes. But there are options to enhance sentencing in bias-motivated crimes. These are known as aggravating circumstances.
In which states can you be charged with hate crimes?
Most states have some type of legislation that addresses bias-motivated criminal acts. At least 45 states and D.C. have statutes with penalties for bias-motivated crimes. The U.S. Department of Justice says hate crime laws vary dramatically from state to state.
Under California code, hate crimes can be a stand-alone charge or serve as an enhancement. An offender convicted of a felony could see up to three years tacked onto their sentence with the hate crime enhancement. California also requires law enforcement training about hate crimes.
Utah’s hate crime law had been criticized as weak and ineffective since protections did not apply to charges more serious than a misdemeanor. In April, Utah’s governor signed a revamped hate crime bill which included harsher penalties for targeting others based on race, religion, sexual orientation and other factors.
Wyoming, South Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas do not have any hate crime protections.
Indiana was included in that list of states up until this past April. Indiana passed a hate crime bill, but state lawmakers received backlash for excluding protections based on gender, gender identity, and age.
Hate crimes can be reported to the FBI no matter the state.