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Louisiana may add police as protected classes for hate crimes

A hate crime is a criminal act in which a perpetrator acts based on animus for another's ethnicity, gender, religion, race, disability or sexual orientation. In Louisiana, police officers and other public safety personnel, including firefighters, may soon be included as a protected class, making it a hate crime to target these persons.

The bill that would change the state's current law passed the Louisiana House with no opposition and very little opposition from the Senate. The proposed law, which has been referred to as "Blue Lives Matter," is now being reviewed by Governor Edwards, and is anticipated to be signed into law. Currently, no other states' hate crime laws identify police officers as a protected class. Interestingly, however, there is also a pending bill in the United States Congress that would include police officers as a protected class, making it a federal hate crime to target a police officer.

Those in favor of Louisiana's bill argue that police officers need the legal protection that this law would offer, as they are under assault and facing increasing animosity. Those opposed to the legislation believe that it is not police officers who are under attack, but rather the state's citizens due to police misconduct.

In the event this proposed bill becomes law, a Louisianan convicted of a felony hate crime involving a police officer or firefighter could face up to five years in prison or a $5,000 fine. A person who has been charged with a hate crime is likely already facing heavy potential scrutiny due to the nature of the alleged offense. He or she may benefit from promptly seeking out the representation of a criminal defense attorney to protect his or her rights.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Louisiana could be the first state where targeting police is a hate crime," Elahe Izadi May 21, 2016

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