Michigan Democrats’ ‘Hate Speech’ Law Could Imprison People For Saying ‘Frightening’ Words

Michigan Democrats have made a remarkable decision by approving House Bill 4474, an innovative law that aims to impose prison terms on individuals convicted of speaking words considered to be ‘frightening’ or ‘intimidating’. This legislation broadens the scope of hate crimes by incorporating acts of intimidation or harassment that target various personal attributes such as race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability, age, ethnicity, and national origin.

According to the proposed legislation, an individual can be convicted of a hate crime if they purposefully intimidate or harass another person based on any of the aforementioned characteristics. The law encompasses various forms of intimidation and harassment, such as physical contact, property damage, or making threats that instill fear, distress, or harassment in another person.

Critics argue that the bill’s expansive definition of hate crimes, which includes the use of ‘frightening’ words, raises concerns about potential encroachment upon freedom of speech. The law carries significant implications, as it could potentially criminalize strong language or expressions of opinion if they are perceived as intimidating or harassing, especially when related to the characteristics listed in the legislation.

According to the bill, anyone who violates these provisions is considered guilty of a felony and can face a maximum prison sentence of 2 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. However, certain circumstances can lead to harsher penalties. If the violation results in bodily harm or severe mental distress, the offender has prior convictions for similar offenses, the victim is below 18 years of age, the violation was committed in collaboration with others, or the perpetrator possessed a firearm during the offense, the punishment can increase to a maximum of 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Furthermore, the law permits alternative sentences, such as community service, which aims to improve the offender’s understanding of the impact of their actions. The court will assess the appropriateness of these alternative sentences, taking into account factors such as the offender’s criminal record, the effect of the offense on the victim and the community, the availability of the alternative sentence program, and the nature of the violation.

Some individuals have raised concerns about the adequacy of the alternative sentencing provisions in addressing potential limitations on freedom of speech. They worry that the legislation could be utilized to suppress opposing viewpoints and curtail vigorous discussions.

Significantly, the law also empowers victims of hate crimes to file civil lawsuits against the perpetrator. If the plaintiff is successful, they may be entitled to receive three times the actual damages or a minimum of $25,000, whichever amount is higher. Additionally, reasonable attorney fees and costs can be awarded to the prevailing party.




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