Federal Sentencing Guidelines Amendments Part V: Hate Crimes

Ed. Note: On November 1, the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s 2010 Amendments to the federal Sentencing Guidelines went into effect, along with a temporary, emergency amendment to implement Section 8 of the Fair Sentencing Act. On the whole, the amendments reflect a reduction in federal criminal sentences and provide the sentencing judge with additional discretion. We are posting analyses of some of the more important changes to the Guidelines. The Sentencing Commission’s reader-friendly guide to the 2010 amendments is available here.

This amendment responds to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Act created a new offense at 18 U.S.C. § 249 for injuring any person because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. That offense is now referred to §2H1.1 (Offenses Involving Individual Rights). It also broadened the definition of “hate crime” to include crimes motivated by actual or perceived “gender identity.” §3A1.1 (Hate Crime Motivation or Vulnerable Victim) gained an application note to account for the expanded definition.

The Act created a second new offense at 18 U.S.C. § 1389, prohibiting attacks on members of the military, which is now referred to §§2A2.2 (Aggravated Assault), 2A2.3 (Minor Assault), and 2B1.1 (Theft, Property Destruction, and Fraud).

This is the only amendment this year to expand on the sentencing guidelines. Unlike years past, most of the amendments this year reduce the severity of the sentencing guidelines and applicable sentencing ranges. Professor Doug Berman addressed the symbolic importance of this change in direction in this post at the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog. We hope that the future holds a continued focus on revising the guidelines for fairness.