Washtenaw County to prosecute crimes against LGBTQ+ people as hate crimes under MI law

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Posted at 9:10 AM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 09:30:53-05

(WXYZ) — Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit announced Friday that the county will be charging crimes against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity as hate crimes.

Related: New Washtenaw Co. Prosecutor on major policy changes: 'It's not just business as usual'
Under the legal guidance, assistant prosecuting attorneys will charge crimes targeting LGBTQ+ persons under Michigan's Ethnic Intimidation law, which is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison.

The law does not “expressly prohibit crimes based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity," but does prohibit crimes targeting someone because of their gender.

Savit said guidance points to Michigan courts concluding that the ethnic intimidation law covers acts committed due to a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Everyone in our community has a right to feel safe. Nobody should ever be the target of a crime simply because of who they are or who they love,” Savit said in a release “Hate crimes are a particularly pernicious category of crime, because they send a message that a person has been targeted because of who they are.”

This is the latest policy directive issued by Savit since he assumed office. Other changes made in his first few weeks as prosecutor include eliminating the cash bail system, not prosecuting prostitution and a change in how traffic stop-related offenses are handled.