Most residents of Washington and Idaho are probably at least somewhat aware of what a hate crime is. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a hate crime typically involves two elements: a crime as well as bias. Hate crimes can damage property, such as is the case with vandalism, or they can cause harm to people; hate crimes include murder, arson and the like. In particular, Congress has defined hate crimes as offenses against people or property which are motivated primarily by the offender's bias against a certain race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability.
Fortunately, most local residents will not face hate crime charges. Still, if one does encounter these types of allegations, there is a chance they might be prosecuted in federal court. Just as a crime may or may not be a hate crime, a hate crime may or may not be a federal crime. State and local authorities actually handle most hate crimes cases, but when hate crimes are civil rights violations, the federal government may become involved in the ensuing investigation.