HRC Blog

Oklahoma State Senator Takes Legislative Shot at Federal Hate Crimes Law

Yesterday afternoon in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma State Senator Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma City) gutted a bill (Senate Bill 2165) and replaced the original text with an amendment to make federal prosecution of Oklahoma hate crimes more difficult for federal prosecutors.  The amendment would require that incident reports collected by local law enforcement during the investigation of a possible hate crime be destroyed if local prosecutors are unable to secure a conviction:

Any data collected and reports received on an individual charged with a crime pursuant to this section that are later determined by a state or local law enforcement agency, investigating authority, or a court to be not guilty or are otherwise acquitted or improperly charged and dismissed as an incident of crime pursuant to this section shall have such data and reports permanently deleted from the database required by this subsection and any hard copies associated with the data destroyed.

In addition, the amendment would require law enforcement agencies to refuse to provide the federal government access to hate crimes records when the federal agency is investigating under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd , Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act :

law enforcement agencies shall deny access to law enforcement records to any federal agency when such request is made relating to a case handled and completed by a law enforcement agency of this state and the purpose is to attempt to investigate or prosecute the individual or individuals pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 245, except for records of any individuals convicted pursuant to Section 850 of Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes and for those records listed in subsection A of this section.

Such legislation has the potential to obstruct federal prosecutors from being able to fully pursue justice against the perpetrators of bias-motivated violent crimes. Senator Russell has been a vocal opponent of federal hate crimes laws and has previously proposed failed legislation in the Oklahoma Senate that would allow Oklahoma to opt-out of complying with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Senate Bill 2165 would now have to be passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives and signed by the Governor for it to become law. If you’re in Oklahoma, plan to lobby your legislators during The Equality Network’s March 31st lobby day in Oklahoma City.

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