In crime and law, hate crimes (also known as bias-motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group. Examples of such groups include but are not limited to: racial group, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender identity.
A hate crime is a category used to describe bias-motivated violence: "assault, injury, and murder on the basis of certain personal characteristics: different appearance, different color, different nationality, different language, different religion."
"Hate crime" generally refers to criminal acts that are seen to have been motivated by bias against one or more of the types above, or of their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail).
A hate crime law is a law intended to prevent bias-motivated violence. Hate crime laws are distinct from laws against hate speech in that hate crime laws enhance the penalties associated with conduct that is already criminal under other laws, while hate speech laws criminalize a category of speech.