Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
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Can you please tell me whether this question is for me? I only just saw it, and there's at least one other legal Expert named Jane here.
I'll look forward to hearing from you,
Jane Doe Deer
Usually people who ask me this is guilty and I tell them to keep quiet because anything they say can be used against them.
If you know nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing, have nothing at all to do with this and have no information at all, there's no harm in talking with law enforcement officers.
If you feel that you may be nervous, or they may try to trip you up somehow, there's no harm in writing out a statement, signing and dating it, and just handing it to the investigating officer. That also gives you the opportunity to have someone else read over your statement ahead of time to make sure it says what you want it to say, and doesn't say what you don't want it to say.
It's possible that the message that was left was really scary or threatening - that may be part of the reason this is being taken so seriously. Or, it may just be, as you think, because it's a police officer's son.
Probably not. A crime committed as a hate crime adds another element and another penalty to a crime. For example, if you hit someone BECAUSE, at least in part, he's another race, you can get charged with both assault and a hate crime.
It's like adding a "deadly weapon" charge in a way. For example, if you mugged someone by threatening someone with a gun, there's an added charge when compared with a mugging where you just threatened a person by being bigger and stronger than the other person.
I worked on the hate crime legislation in a former city in which I lived and also on the state legislation where I live and practice. A lot of people don't understand what the difference is, so I hope I explained it so it makes sense to you. :)
I don't know whether hate crimes are misdemeanors or felonies where you are. But if hate crimes are felonies, then yes, the phone call could be escalated to a felony level.
Think of it from the victim's point of view. Let's say that the victim is African-American and the caller said something very threatening about lynching or worse. These things still happen in America, and the victim could, very reasonably, be very scared, depending on what was said and how it was said.
I would think that the police will be able to find the phone from which the call originated.
If you know who did this, advise him or her to get a good lawyer and keep his/her mouth shut.