Chicago has sought to deal with the increasing problem of hate crime using legislative means. The provisions of the Illinois Hate Crime Act (IHCA), 720 ILCS 5/12-7.1, are the leading authority on the management of the criminal process. The act creates an imperative on the state to prosecute but does not explicitly remove the opportunity for private civil cases to take place. Many victims take the opportunity to sue for damages, even when the aggressor is a public authority or their representatives. The range of options for the court includes actual damages, punitive damages, and additional costs, including attorney fees. At other times, the court may offer injunctive relief in order to stop the offending behavior from happening.
The criteria for what constitutes a hate crime can be fluid and those who offend have often used the ambiguity of definitions in order to attempt a get-out-clause for their behavior. Typically, they will claim that this is a case of freedom of speech, which is constitutionally guaranteed. For those who actually go on to commit acts of violence, the case is much simpler since the prosecutor can go for the assault line of questioning and later prove that hate-inspired motives were at play. A crime becomes a hate crime when it is motivated by perceived creed, race, color, gender, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, nationality and even membership of a particular group. Bigotry is at the heart of this crime and will be part of the Mens Rea during the prosecution.
The Importance of the Motivating Factors