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Racial Intimidation Laws in Michigan

If you or a loved one have further questions about ethnic bullying or need legal representation, please feel free to contact Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC lawyers today. Even if the prosecutor refuses to file a complaint for ethnic intimidation, a victim can sue in district or district court to receive either three times the actual damages for emotional distress or other criminal behavior, or $2,000.00, whichever is greater. A victim can also obtain a permanent injunction against the offender to prevent future behaviour or face contempt of court. If successful, a victim may also recover reasonable attorneys` fees from the injured party. You should consult an experienced lawyer to see if you have a solid case. The law requires that there has been a malicious and specific intent to intimidate or harass the victim on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity to enable conviction. If physical contact or property damage occurred as a result of an accident, the defence would be that the defendant did not have the requisite intent. If an accused had been heard making derogatory racist or ethnic comments or jokes to friends, a «victim» would have felt intimidated or harassed. However, if the defendant did not intend for the «victim» to hear or take note of the comments, there is insufficient intent for a conviction. Judges and jurors may suspect bad faith in such circumstances, and it will take a very convincing defence to convince them otherwise.

However, the Ethnic Bullying Act does not specifically protect issues of sexual orientation or gender identity. In People v Rogers, __ Mich App __ (issued January 7, 2020) (Case No. 346348), the defendant confronted a transgender person (born male and self-identifying) at a Detroit gas station and harassed her because of her gender identity. Eventually, the accused approached the victim with a firearm and a fight ensued. At one point during the fight, the weapon discharged and struck the victim`s left shoulder. The district court ruled on a charge of ethnic intimidation, saying the term «transgender» fell under the legal definition of «gender» and was covered by law. The district court severed the link, finding that «gender» did not include «transgender» and was limited to male, female or neutral identification. The Michigan Court of Appeals sided with the District Court, albeit for a slightly different reason. The Michigan legislature uses the term «gender» but refuses to use the term «transgender.» The accused targeted the victim for harassment, not «because she is biologically male; He targeted her because she is transgender, which is outside the scope of the law. While the behavior was morally unacceptable, only an act of the legislature can change the law to protect transgender people. Fear can be used to exploit another racial group through violence or greater power.

Physical or psychological intimidation, police brutality, unequal treatment before the law, or indoctrination can all be used to achieve this goal. Racial intimidation fuels racial inequality and exploitation, leading to passivity or provocative behavior. In People v. Schutter, 265 Mich App 423; 695 NW2d 360, the defendants challenged the District Court`s reinstatement of the charge of ethnic intimidation resulting from a «traffic accident». The defendants drove a vehicle on a road that avoided a vehicle belonging to a black family, which required a panic stop by both drivers to avoid an accident. One of the accused shouted racist insults at the other vehicle before leaving. The two vehicles then drove on the road in the same direction, with the accused in the lead. The other passenger vehicle followed closely and attempted to swerve, but the defendant`s vehicle braked and forced both vehicles to stop. The black driver again followed the defendants` vehicle and eventually confronted them outside their vehicles. While the black driver allegedly hit him, the defendants were seen hitting him violently while shouting racist slurs. The district court «concluded that the defendants` attack on Robinson was not ethnic intimidation because it was motivated by `street rage,` not racial intimidation or harassment,» so it refused to link the charges against the defendants.

ID at 426. The District Court overturned the District Court`s decision, stating «that the law only requires that the underlying crime be committed `with the specific intent to intimidate or harass` and that intent may be formed during the commission of the predicate offence,» even though the underlying factor was traffic anger. ID at 427. The district court reinstated the charges, so the defendants appealed the judge`s decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals. The defendants claimed that the racist insults were only incidental to the traffic accident and that the intention behind the beatings was not ethnic intimidation. Michigan also joined this trend, passing laws banning «hate crimes» and «ethnic bullying» in 1988. The law provides for the following civil and criminal penalties: The Ethnic Intimidation Act has the particularity of containing a specific provision allowing civil action against money. Most criminal laws provide only for imprisonment and fines, even in cases where serious bodily harm has been inflicted and civil action is likely. Lawmakers wanted to make clear that victims should seriously consider suing for damages, and those damages can include money for emotional distress. In Menschen v. Richards, 202 Mich App 377; 509 NW2d 528 (1993), the respondent challenged his conviction for ethnic intimidation, which had been handed down two years after the law came into force, on the grounds that the new law «is too broad because it brings freedom of expression within its scope, is de facto invalid because it has a chilling effect on others, and is vague because it does not set out reasonably clear guidelines to prevent arbitrary prosecution».

ID at 378. The accused allegedly threatened the victims as they left their apartment, including shouting racial slurs, saying he would destroy property, and saying he would shoot them with his gun. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, stating that «the law does not give the trier of fact unstructured and unlimited discretion.» ID at 379. «The law is only respected if there is evidence of an underlying offence committed because of racial hostility.» «So these elements are very clear and specific.» ID at 379. If someone is convicted of ethnic bullying, they can serve up to 2 years in prison or jail, 5 years probation and a $5,000 fine. (2) Ethnic bullying is an offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years and/or a fine of not more than $5,000. Michigan has an ethnic bullying law that makes it a crime for one person, in a malicious manner and with the specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (Michigan Compiled Law 750.147b). Michigan law does not currently have a hate crime law based on a victim`s sexual orientation.