Few Federal Hate Crime Referrals Result in Prosecution
(12 Aug 2019) The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (18USC 249) was passed by Congress in 2009. Despite around 50 criminal referrals each year to federal prosecutors for these hate crimes, few have resulted in actual charges filed in federal court. During the Trump Administration, the number of federal prosecutions under this statute have become even rarer. Only 6 prosecutions were reported each year for FY 2017 and FY 2018. The latest data covering the first nine months of FY 2019, record only 4 hate crime prosecutions thus far.

While press reports suggest the El Paso shooter could face federal hate crime charges, the last actual prosecution under 18 USC 249 occurred in Utah in 2019.

Examining this wider scope of federal hate crimes under all five statutes, there have been just under 2,000 hate crime referrals since FY 2009. Only 15 percent have resulted in federal prosecutions. During the first 9 months of this fiscal year, there have been 99 referrals that U.S. attorney offices acted upon. Only 17 of these resulted in a federal prosecution. Despite the renewed public attention being given to the commission of hate crimes, referrals to the federal government under hate crime statutes have actually been falling. Available records going back to FY 1986 indicate that 1,000 or more hate crime referrals occurred in these earlier years.

These comparisons are based on case-by-case information obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

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