SC lawmakers want to increase penalties for crimes committed out of hate

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA/WBTW)- Wednesday, November 20, marked day one of two pre-filing days for South Carolina representatives.

It’s a chance for lawmakers to get bills on the table before the General Assembly reconvenes for session in January.

One bill that has been getting a lot of coverage leading up to the pre-filing date addresses hate crimes.

“It’s just about time that South Carolina has legislation that says hey these crimes motivated by hate based solely on bias race gender, sexual orientation, religion is wrong,” said Representative Beth Bernstein, who joins four other lawmakers on a bill to enhance penalties.

Representative Wendell Gilliard is one of those cosponsoring lawmakers and says “since the Mother Emanuel, we wanted to make sure that everyone heard the cries of the people.”

Rep. Gilliard has a bill from the 2019 legislative session currently in committee. That proposal would define a hate crime and create it as an additional offense.

The bill Gilliard is joining Rep. Bernstein on would increase penalties for crimes based on hate or bias.

For example, the fines for a violent crime can be increased up to $10,000 and an extra four years can be added to the maximum sentence.

Lawmakers say the legislation is needed to fill in gaps federal statue doesn’t cover.

Rep. Bernstein explained “federal law doesn’t catch everything. It doesn’t deal with destruction of properties. The penalty enhancement is the best route that we can go and it also gives local law enforcement the tools that they can use.”

According to a report from the FBI, in 2018 there were 111 hate crimes reported by state agencies in South Carolina.

Of those 111 hate crimes, 67 were based on race and 28 were based on religion. In 2017, there were 87 hate crimes reported by state agencies.

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