The crime of ethnic intimidation is classified in the Michigan Penal Code as an assault. In order to prove the crime of ethnic intimidation, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- caused physical contact with the alleged victim;
- by making certain statements or gestures, threatened physical contact with the alleged victim;
- damaged, defaced or destroyed the alleged victim’s property;
- by making certain statements or gestures, threatened to damage, deface, or destroy the alleged victim’s property;
- performed one of the above acts without justification or excuse; and
- the accused did one of the above acts because of the race, color or ethnicity of the alleged victim.
Courts have recognized duress as one example of justification or excuse.
Over the past few years since this crime was added to the Michigan Penal Code, we have noted that county prosecutors generally reserve this charge to particularly heinous and abusive conduct. There has to be a racial or ethnic component in order for the charges to stick. Even when the conduct of the accused is along these lines, remorse and contrition go a long way toward achieving a plea agreement to a reduced charge.