Lawmaker: Treat violent political rifts like hate crimes

Posted at 2:49 PM, Jan 06, 2017
An Arizona lawmaker wants judges to consider attacks motivated by political affiliation or beliefs as they do crimes motivated by race or gender.
There are no enhancements of criminal penalties for hate crimes in Arizona, but state statute does instruct judges to consider issuing heavier sentences for crimes that include aggravating factors, reported The Arizona Capitol Times. Judges currently must consider race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability as aggravating factors.
Sen. John Kavanagh, a Fountain Hills Republican, is proposing adding "political affiliation, beliefs or opinions" to that list.
He says the bill would provide direction from the Legislature that when a crime is committed for such reasons, "it's particularly egregious." Under current law, a judge "would not have sentencing guidance and would not have a legal support if he threw the book at the person" for a crime motivated by political affiliation, said Kavanagh.
Retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Ken Fields, however, didn't see Kavanagh's proposal as an improvement to the system. Fields said he was nearly speechless when he heard about the bill.
"It's like walking through a minefield. That just doesn't make sense. That's too generic, too general. I have very strong feelings about Donald Trump, but my strong feelings could become a hate crime?" Fields said.
He said considering opinions an aggravating factor could be "a very slippery slope."
Attorney Dan Pochoda, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said political opinion is different than "immutable" factors like race, gender or sexual orientation. He said considering transient issues like political beliefs would be "very dangerous."