Hate crimes are serious, especially because they could be committed by individuals or groups aligned with terrorists. Perpetrators also have the potential to commit acts of terror on their own. A hate crime is one in which the perpetrator singles out the victim based on one or more specific attributes.
For example, a victim may be targeted because of that person's gender or sexual orientation. Victims could also be targeted because they have a certain skin color or came from a certain part of the world. The crimes themselves range from murder to arson or vandalism. The FBI attempts to deter people from committing hate crimes by partnering with community groups and by educating the public about these types of acts. The agency also works with local and state law enforcement agencies to investigate hate crimes.
Public outreach programs help local organizations determine if a law has been violated. If a hate crime has occurred, the FBI can help to ensure that the crime is prosecuted at a federal level. This may be necessary in situations when local authorities can't or don't want to prosecute a crime in their jurisdiction.
There could be a variety of long-term consequences for those who are charged or convicted of a hate crime. For instance, a criminal charge may result in termination from a job or a tarnished reputation in the community. A conviction may result in jail or prison time or other penalties. An attorney may be able to get a case dismissed or negotiate a plea deal on behalf of a defendant. This may allow a person to avoid some or all penalties.