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Abstract

The argument for enacting laws to punish and deter bias crime does not always benefit from clear and unambiguous examples of bias driven murder. A frustrating factor in some of the widely publicized reports of bias-related assault is the element of ambiguity: where a member of one race or religion injures a member of another race or religion, even perhaps articulating the difference between attacker and victim by means of an expletive or other statement, the question inevitably arises whether the attack was the product of bias alone, or did other factors, such as an intent to rob or rape, predominate. This article advocates a renewed legislative effort in the fight against bias crime. The difficulty that attaches to defining a crime of bias, and to identifying the categories to be included in the statute, is far outweighed by the urgency of the escalating problem. In addition to the present remedial scheme, varied approaches need to be fostered and accentuated including non-penal sanctions. Proposed statutes in New York take a stronger stance on identifying and punishing bias crime incidents. Even more important than a successful conviction rate is the development of effective education and community responses to intolerance and prejudice.

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