CONWAY, SC (WBTW)- Some South Carolina lawmakers are hopeful the state will join nearly the rest of the country in passing a hate crimes bill in 2020.
South Carolina is just one of five states without a hate crime statute. Some lawmakers have been trying to change that for years, and earlier this month the proposed legislation made the largest step forward it ever has.
Dylann Roof shot and killed nine black church members in an act defined as a hate crime by federal law, but on a state level, there’s no such law on the books. Representative Wendell Gilliard said it’s well overdue.
“Hate crimes are on the increase in the state of South Carolina and if that doesn’t tell you something then nothing will,” said Rep. Gilliard.
The proposed bill would make it a felony for someone to assault, intimidate, or threaten a person because of their race, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or homelessness.
If passed, someone convicted of a hate crime would face a $2,000 to $10,000 thousand dollar fine and serve two to 15 years in prison
“That can really up the anty on smaller crimes. I think the idea with any law is to make people stop and think and I think with the penalty range they go it would certainly do that,” said 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richarson.
Richardson said when it comes to murder that charge could be tacted on as well. Senator Gerald Malloy of Hartsville proposed a bill that would add a hate crime to the death penalty as an aggravating circumstance. That bill never made it out of committee.
Rep. Gilliard said the state bill is more inclusive than the federal law, for example, highlighting crimes against homelessness.
We asked if they would ever add police officers and first responders to the law like Louisiana, Gilliard said he wouldn’t oppose that
“All the hate crime saying is that everybody should be treated with dignity and respect,” said Rep. Gilliard.
The proposed bill passed out of a subcommittee and is in the full judiciary committee. It will be brought up again in 2020.
To read the legislation, click here.