The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a state law that increased the sentence for a crime in which the defendant intentionally selected the victim on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or similar characteristics.
In 1989 Todd Mitchell and several other young African Americans were discussing the white racism depicted in the film Mississippi Burning, and they became so angry that they attacked a white boy, leaving him unconscious for four days. Mitchell was convicted of aggravated assault, a crime for which Wisconsin law assigned a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment. However, because the state’s hate crime statute allowed for an enhanced punishment, Mitchell was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.
The main question before the Supreme Court was whether the hate crime statute violated the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. The justices unanimously agreed that it did not. Speaking for the Court, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
First Amendment balancing
First Amendment speech tests
R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul