Passed through the Senate Finance Committee and now on to the Senate Appropriations Committee, a bill that would expand the Colorado hate crimes law may be on its way to the floor of the legislature if some get their way. The bill seeks to include “homeless people” amongst those populations protected by the law, an expansion that many find to be overreaching.
Media coverage on crimes against the homeless has seen an uptick in recent years. This is, perhaps, why the bill was drafted in the first place. Sponsor Senator Lucia Guzman states “The idea that they are out there on our streets and being discriminated against in this heinous way is something we feel that the state should speak to through this kind of bill.”
But opponents worry the “homeless” designation isn’t concrete enough, nor is it an “innate characteristic”.
The Hate Crime laws in Colorado prescribe harsher punishments for crimes when the victim of said violent crime is a part of a protected population. Currently, that population includes those who are attacked because of their race, mental disability, or religion, for instance.
One group in opposition of the bill states “being susceptible to crime ad being the victim of a hate crime…are not the same.” They worry that people in between homes might be charged under this particularly strict law or that even one homeless person could be prosecuted for a hate crime against another homeless person. “The state needs to safeguard the distinction between hateful acts against minorities and crimes against vulnerable citizens.”
Another editorial on the proposed legislation worries that including the homeless in Hate Crime legislation will dilute the intent and power of the original legislation, minimizing the impact of the law overall.
“Passing this bill would send a strong message to the bigots who regularly target homeless people that the state of Colorado takes this form of bigotry as serious as any other” says one supporter of the change. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless says there have been 1,000 “crimes of prejudice” against the homeless in the past decade, across the country.
While no crimes against anyone, particularly based on their housing situation, is justifiable or in anyway “okay”, one has to wonder if the proposed legislation is the answer. When you begin adding populations to hate crime laws, where do you stop. Could there be additions specifically made to protect people on food stamps or welfare recipients? Opening up the law for further inclusions, opponents worry, could be a slippery slope.
Whether charged with assault or a hate crime, facing the courts when accused of violence of any kind can seem futile. Contact our defense attorney for a consultation on your case.