Jul 21

Citing a six-year-old hate crime charge, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) is attempting to block the hire of an Illinois man, according to an article by The Chicago Tribune. The hate crime charge in question was never prosecuted, however, raising questions about this course of action.

The CPD applicant in question, Patrick Lavin, was formerly an undergraduate student at Southern Illinois University. Approximately one year before he graduated, Lavin was involved in an argument over a taxi that turned physical. Two groups began jostling with each other, resulting in injuries to several people. One of the injured parties was gay, leading authorities to charge Lavin with a hate crime as well as felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor battery.

Lavin maintains that the hate crime label was and is inappropriate; he never intended to injure anyone on the basis of sexual orientation. Prosecutors eventually dropped the hate crime and felony aggravated battery charges. Lavin then pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. A few years later, Lavin was able to get this case expunged successfully.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Lavin divulged everything about this incident on his CPD application. But CPD guidelines allow for the disqualification of an applicant “if there is evidence that the applicant has engaged in criminal conduct,” even in the absence of a conviction. At this point, the courts will review the situation, as there is division within the CPD over whether Lavin should be allowed to serve as a probationary police officer.

In light of this news story, it feels like a great time to review Illinois law concerning hate crimes.

What is a Hate Crime in Illinois?


The Illinois Criminal Code defines hate crimes in 720 ILCS 5/12-7.1. By examining this law, we can see that there are two major elements: protected classes and specific crimes.

The first element of a hate crime involves the victim’s membership in a particular protected class. If the crime was committed because of the victim’s class, then it might qualify as a hate crime. The protected classes are as follows:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Creed
  • Religion
  • Ancestry
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Physical or mental disability
  • National origin

The second element of a hate crime centers on a specific list of crimes. Hate crime laws can apply if a person commits any of the following crimes:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Misdemeanor theft
  • Criminal trespass to residence
  • Misdemeanor criminal damage to property
  • Criminal trespass to vehicle
  • Criminal trespass to real property
  • Mob action
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Harassment by telephone
  • Harassment through electronic communications

When we combine the two elements above, we can see the full picture. For example, if a person batters a victim because of the victim’s race, then it qualifies as a hate crime. Or if a person harasses a victim because of the victim’s sexual orientation, then it qualifies as a hate crime.

Do You Need Legal Advice?

No matter what the criminal offense, all criminal charges are serious. Without a sound strategy and an aggressive defense, you could miss out on your best chance for a positive outcome. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the law and navigate toward an effective resolution.

Serving the counties of Dewitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, McLean, Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford, The Prior Law Firm is located in Bloomington, Illinois. Our attorneys are dedicated to the practice of Illinois criminal law. If you need legal advice concerning any criminal offense, please do not hesitate to contact us immediately. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at johnprior@thepriorlawfirm.com or online by completing a simple form.

(image courtesy of Ashton Bingham)