Jul 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

DOJ declined to prosecute 82% of hate crime suspects from 2005 to 2019

Picture of a woman holding a sign that says "Stop Hate Crimes"
Photo: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Justice Department declined to prosecute 82% of hate crime suspects between 2005 and 2019, according to a department report released this week.

State of play: Prosecutors declined to prosecute the 1,548 cases for different reasons, but more than 55% of the decisions came down to insufficient evidence, which means that a case could not be proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • The second most cited reason to decline cases was for the prioritization of federal resources.
  • Prosecutors conducted investigations into 1,878 suspects in potential hate crime cases, but only 17% were prosecuted. Another 1% of cases were dismissed by U.S. magistrates.

Yes, but: The report also said that of those crimes that were reported, the conviction rate increased from 83% between 2005 and 2009 to 94% between 2015 and 2019. About 85% of defendants convicted were sent to prison for an average term of 7.5 years.

The big picture: The report comes weeks after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a six-step plan to combat hate crimes in the country. He said he would direct the Justice Department to increase resources and coordination to state, local and tribal partners.

  • The plan would also designate an officer to facilitate the expedited review of hate crimes, as well as increase the department's language access capabilities to make it easier to report these types of crimes.

Worth noting: Reports of hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community have increased during the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate received more than 6,600 self-reported incidents from the beginning of the pandemic until March this year.

  • President Biden in May signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would direct the Justice Department to expedite the review of coronavirus-related hate crimes.
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