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Hate Crimes FAQS


What is a hate crime?

RIGL(R.I. General Law) defines a hate crime as "any crime motivated by bigotry or bias, including, but not limited to, threatened, attempted, or completed act(s) that appear after investigation, to have been motivated by racial, religious, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or disability prejudice."

What is the difference between a hate crime and a hate/bias incident?

Hate/bias incidents involve behavior that, though motivated by bias against a victim's race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender or disability, are not criminal acts. Hate crimes may involve assaults, or malicious property damage motivated by bias. There are several indicators that are considered when making the determination of the occurence of a hate crime.

Can a hate crime be committed with written or spoken words that are offensive?

Although bias-related acts are offensive and hurtful, the use of bigoted language may not violate hate crime laws because of First Amendment Freedom of Speech protection.

Why should I report hate crimes promptly?

Physical evidence and the opportunity to identify witnesses may be lost if one waits to long to report a hate crime. Also, accurate and comprehensive reporting is essential to understanding the prevalence of patterns of hate crimes locally and nationally.

How are hate crimes charged in the criminal justice system?

In Rhode Island, police officers do not charge people with hate crimes. The Hate Crimes Sentencing Act is a sentence enhancement law available to the prosecutor when there is substantial evidence to believe that a victim was selected because of the defendant's hatred or animus toward the victim's actual or perceived identity. Police officers can only make a recommendation to the prosecutor that the Hate Crimes Sentencing Act be applied.

What is the process for applying the Hate Crimes Sentencing Act?

If the prosecutor wishes to apply the Hate Crimes Sentencing Act he/she shall notify the Judge, no later than the pre-trial hearing, that should the defendant be convicted, he/she is subject to the imposition of an enhanced sentence in accordance with this Act. The ultimate decision lies with the Judge.

Where can I learn more about the Hate Crimes Sentencing Act?

Visit the State of R.I. General Assembly website

How does DPS handle reports of on-campus hate crimes?

  • DPS will send an officer to investigate every report of hate crime/bias-related incident.
  • Medical aid will be provided for those in need.
  • DPS Supervisor will be notified.
  • Officers will conduct a preliminary investigation; victims and witnesses will be and interviewed and statements will be taken. DPS Investigations Unit detectives will report to the scene.
  • Evidence will be documented, photographed and/or collected.
  • Notifications will be made to Dean on Call and other University resource persons who are designated to offer crisis support. DPS command staff will also be notified.
  • Officers will complete an official police report.
  • Police report will be forwarded to the Office of Student Life, and other necessary University offices.
  • State Bias-reports will be completed as appropriate and forwarded to the RI State Police in accordance to RI state law.
  • DPS Detectives will conduct and follow-up investigative work and will coordinate with PPD Detectives, Attorney General's Office, and FBI as necessary. The victim/witness shall be kept abreast of their case status.
  • If a victim/witness makes the decision to press criminal charges against a known perpetrator who has committed a crime against them, the Department of Public Safety will facilitate that option by connecting the victim to external resources that provide assistance through the criminal justice process.