Hate and Bias Crimes

Hate Crimes, Bias Crimes and Malicious Harassment are interchangable terms.  "Malicious Harassment" is the legal term used for these types of crimes. 

Reporting a hate crime

If the incident is happening now, or just happened, call 9-1-1 immediately. 
If the incident has already occurred, the immediate danger is over and there are no injuries, call (206) 625-5011.

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 to SPD's Bias Crime Detective or a local precinct detective for follow up investigation.  

When is an incident considered a hate crime?

  • Protected statuses under Washington State Law:
    • Race
    • Gender
    • Color
    • Religion
    • Ancestry
    • National Origin
    • Sexual Orientation
    • Mental, physical or sensory handicap
  • Additional Protected statuses under Seattle City Law:
    • Homelessness
    • Marital Status
    • Age
    • Parental Status 
    • Gender Identity
    • Political Ideology
  • A person is guilty of a hate crime if they commits 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
  • 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 malicious harassment.
  • 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 malicious harassment.
  • 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 Malicious Harrassment crime.
  • If the incident is not found to be a crime - either Malicious Harassment or any other type of crime - there is often not much enforcement action police can take. SPD does keep detailed statistics on all bias 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.