Although crimes stemming from hatred and prejudice, such as cross burnings and lynchings, have long been a part of America's sometimes dark history, the actual term "hate crime" did not become a common phrase used to describe these types of crimes until around the 1980s. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, although their investigations into what are now considered hate crimes go all the way back to the early days of the Klu Klux Klan, the term didn't really become popular and mainstream until after a string of bias-related crimes launched by a radical group known as the Skinheads.
Today, a hate crime is considered any violent act committed against another person because of the other person's race, national origin, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. You may think that you can only be charged with a hate crime if it actually involves an act of physical violence against another person, but there are actually several different ways that hate crimes can occur.
As an example, the person committing the crime may vandalize or set fire to a church, mosque or synagogue because of their feelings of bigotry and intolerance toward another person's religion or faith. They may make verbal threats of violence against someone because they don't like the other person's sexual orientation and wish to instill fear in them. Basically, a hate crime is considered any act that makes another person feel fearful, alienated or helpless due to them being perceived as being different by the perpetrator.
Defendants who are facing charges for violent crimes that involve a hate crime may find it beneficial to receive legal assistance from an experienced Wisconsin criminal attorney.
Source: FindLaw, "Hate Crime: The Violence of Intolerance" Sep. 16, 2014