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Does South Carolina Have a Hate Crime Law?

Does South Carolina Have a Hate Crime Law?

A hate crime is defined as an offense motivated by prejudice based on a person’s race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. The actual offense is generally a violent crime, such as assault, vandalism, arson, murder, or threats to commit such crimes. 

Although federal authorities have the power to pursue hate crime charges, most states have enacted their own statutes, whether they are separate laws or penalty enhancements. However, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Wyoming, are the only states in the country without a hate crime law. 

As of March 2021, the House Judiciary Committee – a group of South Carolina lawmakers – has passed a hate crime bill by a vote of 23-0. The bill has been sent to the House floor. 

According to the bill, a person who is convicted of murder, assault, or any other violent crime fueled by hate or prejudice against another individual based on race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability can face an additional five years in prison and an additional fine of up to $10,000. While the House Judiciary Committee voted to remove nonviolent offenses from the legislation, if those provisions are restored, harassment or stalking would lead to an extra three years behind bars and a maximum fine of $5,000, while vandalism carries an extra year and a fine not exceeding $1,000. 

The bill has been named the “Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act,” after the state senator and pastor of Emanuel AME church who was killed – along with eight other black church members – in a 2015 racist mass shooting. State business leaders have made passing a hate crime bill a top priority since they believe the lack of protection for minorities could hinder the state’s economy and growth. 

Currently, if a hate crime does occur, state prosecutors can only prosecute the offense itself. On the other hand – as we mentioned before – federal agencies may get involved and charge the defendant under federal law. 

If you or a loved one has been accused of a federal crime in Lexington, contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC today at (803) 359-3301 for a free consultation. Helping clients facing serious criminal charges since 2004. 


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