Understanding Hate Crimes

Contact Information
Renton PD Safe Place Program Liaison
Officer Cat Citron
Renton, WA 98057

The Definition of Hate Crimes

Photo of a police officer holding the safe place flierAlthough the term, "Hate Crimes," is the most frequently used term throughout the United States, the true definitions may differ depending on the jurisdiction and/or state in which you reside.

In the State of Washington, the correct term is Hate Crime, and it’s when a person maliciously and intentionally commits a crime against another person under the protected status according to the law, Washington State Law (RCW 9A.36.080).

For information about the Renton PD Safe Place Program please contact the Liaison, Officer Cat Citron at 206-445-5910 or ccitron@rentonwa.gov.

When is an incident considered a Hate Crime?

A person is guilty of a hate crime if they commit any of the following acts because of the victims protected status: 
  • Causes physical injury to the victim or another person

  • Causes physical damage to or destroys the property of the victim or another person

  • Makes threats that causes a person or group to have reasonable fear of harm to their person or property

  • Protected statuses under Washington State Law (RCW 9A.36.080):
    • Race
    • Color
    • Religion
    • Ancestry
    • National Origin
    • Gender
    • Sexual Orientation
    • Gender Expression or Identity
    • Mental, physical or sensory disability

Even if the victim does not belong to a certain protected status, if they were selected because they were perceived to be of that status, this is still considered a hate crime. 

When is an incident not considered a Hate Crime?

  • If the suspect is in the process of committing another crime, and calls the victim a derogatory name, it does not automatically mean it is a hate crime.

  • If the suspect uses insulting or derogatory words but does not place another person in a reasonable fear of harm to their person or property, this is not a hate crime.

  • If the incident was a crime, but it was not believed to be motivated by your status, the police will still follow up on the crime to the full extent of the law. It just won't be charged as a hate crime.

  • If the incident is not found to be a crime - either a hate crime or any other type of crime - there is often not much enforcement action police can take. Renton PD does keep detailed statistics on all hate or biased crime incidents and we very much encourage the reporting every incident of this type.

If it is found that there is no directly enforceable action that can be taken by police, this does not mean what happened to you wasn't wrong. You sometimes have the option of bringing a civil cause of action against the suspect, which carries a lower burden of proof than criminal enforcement. The suspect may be liable to the victim for actual damages, punitive damages and reasonable attorney's fees and other incurred costs. You will need to contact a private attorney to start a civil action.

Reporting a Hate Crime

  • If the incident is happening now, or just happened, call 911 immediately.

  • If the incident has already occurred, the immediate danger is over and there are no injuries, call our non-emergency number 425-235-2121.

The immediate police response to a report of a hate crime will be handled like any call. However:

  • If you believe the incident was motivated by your status, ask the officer to make a note of that in the report.

  • If you can, give the officer the exact wording of what was said, regardless of how offensive it is.

  • If there are witnesses to the incident, point them out to the officers at the scene.

  • If the case meets the criteria for a hate crime, your case will then be forwarded for follow up investigation.

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