As seen on:
1610 Southern Blvd.
West Palm Beach, FL
Board Certified Criminal Trial Specialist
This section covers hate crime motivation or vulnerable victims.
CHAPTER THREE – ADJUSTMENTS
PART A – VICTIM-RELATED ADJUSTMENTS
The following adjustments are included in this Part because they may apply to a wide variety of offenses.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 344).
§3A1.1. Hate Crime Motivation or Vulnerable Victim
(a)If the finder of fact at trial or, in the case of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, the court at sentencing determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally selected any victim or any property as the object of the offense of conviction because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation of any person, increase by 3 levels.
(b)(1)If the defendant knew or should have known that a victim of the offense was a vulnerable victim, increase by 2 levels.
(b)(2)If (A) subdivision (1) applies; and (B) the offense involved a large number of vulnerable victims, increase the offense level determined under subdivision (1) by 2 additional levels.
(1)Subsection (a) shall not apply if an adjustment from §2H1.1(b)(1) applies.
1.Subsection (a) applies to offenses that are hate crimes. Note that special evidentiary requirements govern the application of this subsection.
Do not apply subsection (a) on the basis of gender in the case of a sexual offense. In such cases, this factor is taken into account by the offense level of the Chapter Two offense guideline. Moreover, do not apply subsection (a) if an adjustment from §2H1.1(b)(1) applies.
2.For purposes of subsection (b), "vulnerable victim" means a person (A) who is a victim of the offense of conviction and any conduct for which the defendant is accountable under §1B1.3 (Relevant Conduct); and (B) who is unusually vulnerable due to age, physical or mental condition, or who is otherwise particularly susceptible to the criminal conduct.
Subsection (b) applies to offenses involving an unusually vulnerable victim in which the defendant knows or should have known of the victim’s unusual vulnerability. The adjustment would apply, for example, in a fraud case in which the defendant marketed an ineffective cancer cure or in a robbery in which the defendant selected a handicapped victim. But it would not apply in a case in which the defendant sold fraudulent securities by mail to the general public and one of the victims happened to be senile. Similarly, for example, a bank teller is not an unusually vulnerable victim solely by virtue of the teller’s position in a bank.
Do not apply subsection (b) if the factor that makes the person a vulnerable victim is incorporated in the offense guideline. For example, if the offense guideline provides an enhancement for the age of the victim, this subsection would not be applied unless the victim was unusually vulnerable for reasons unrelated to age.
3.The adjustments from subsections (a) and (b) are to be applied cumulatively. Do not, however, apply subsection (b) in a case in which subsection (a) applies unless a victim of the offense was unusually vulnerable for reasons unrelated to race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation.
4.If an enhancement from subsection (b) applies and the defendant’s criminal history includes a prior sentence for an offense that involved the selection of a vulnerable victim, an upward departure may be warranted.
5.For purposes of this guideline, "gender identity" means actual or perceived gender-related characteristics. See 18 U.S.C. § 249(c)(4).
Background. Subsection (a) reflects the directive to the Commission, contained in Section 280003 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, to provide an enhancement of not less than three levels for an offense when the finder of fact at trial determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a hate crime motivation. To avoid unwarranted sentencing disparity based on the method of conviction, the Commission has broadened the application of this enhancement to include offenses that, in the case of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, the court at sentencing determines are hate crimes. In section 4703(a) of Public Law 111–84, Congress broadened the scope of that directive to include gender identity; to reflect that congressional action, the Commission has broadened the scope of this enhancement to include gender identity.
Subsection (b)(2) implements, in a broader form, the instruction to the Commission in section 6(c)(3) of Public Law 105-184.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendment 245); November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 344); November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 454); November 1, 1995 (see Appendix C, amendment 521); November 1, 1997 (see Appendix C, amendment 564); November 1, 1998 (see Appendix C, amendment 587); November 1, 2000 (see Appendix C, amendment 595); November 1, 2010 (see Appendix C, amendment 743).
(EFFECTIVE November 1, 2010)
United States Sentencing Commission