Bill to expand the definition of a hate crime in Virginia passes in the House

Bill to expand the definition of a hate crime in Virginia passes in the House
Virginia General Assembly Building (Source: WHSV)

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Last week the Virginia House of Delegates passed several bills, including one to increase the penalty for making a false report of a hate crime.

Virginia House Bill 5098 would expand the definition of a hate crime to include calling 911 on someone based on their race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin.

The bill was introduced by 85th District Delegate Alex Askew (D).

“It really stemmed from, you know, the past we’ve seen with Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery and situations in Central Park. And across the country where folks are calling the police on Black, African American individuals just for literally existing,” Askew explained.

The bill also increases the penalty from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony.

Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Martin said he doesn’t believe the penalty should be a felony.

“It is a misdemeanor to physically assault somebody based one race or ethnicity - a misdemeanor - and this is a felony to use words to call the police and trouble them,” Martin explained.

Askew said we must not continue to waste officer’s time.

“It’s an increase in penalty that was already on the books in this code, but I think this situation, we need to really start focusing our time and resources into things that are important,” Askew explained.

The bill will need to pass in the Senate before reaching Governor Ralph Northam’s desk.

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