Washington Senate Approves Legislation Allowing Hate Crime Charges For Defacing Public Property

Jamiesfeast – The Washington State Senate has approved a bill that has the potential to categorize specific forms of public defacement as felonies in cases where they are deemed to be motivated by hate.

Senate Bill 5917 aims to amend the current state law on hate crimes, specifically by extending their applicability to public property. Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, highlighted the purpose of this bill during his address on the Senate floor before the vote on Friday. He emphasized that the bill seeks to address a “loophole” that became apparent when individuals vandalized the “Pride Crosswalks” in Spokane by pouring paint over them last year.

“This incident dealt a significant blow to our community,” he expressed, noting the ensuing anger and fear that permeated among its members.

He emphasized that this goes beyond a single incident.

Existing state law currently categorizes it as a hate crime when an individual targets private property due to their perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or specific disabilities. However, proposed legislation seeks to remove the mention of “private property” and instead use the term “property.”

Sen. Mike Padden, a Republican from Spokane Valley, expressed his opposition to the bill, highlighting its substantial modifications to the state’s hate crime laws. One notable change is the revision in the section that defines the perpetrator’s perception of “the victim,” which would now be amended to state “another person.”

During the Senate Committee on Law & Justice’s vote on the bill on January 25, Padden expressed his concern to fellow colleagues. He emphasized that by expanding the hate crime statute for a single incident, it may not be the most effective approach to addressing unsolved crimes. Padden suggested that broadening the RCW and expecting to apprehend the perpetrator in the future might not yield the desired results.

The House committee has not yet received the bill for consideration.

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