In the field of criminal justice, multiple attempts have been made to define and clearly conceptualize terrorism. However, there is no one fully accepted definition that would eliminate any misunderstanding or controversy.
Moreover, the presence of hate crimes in federal law discourse imposes further controversy by introducing both hate crime and terrorism to a similar criminological domain. Indeed, terrorism as a crime is defined as “acts of violence that [violate] the criminal laws of the United States or any state, committed by individuals or groups … and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence the policy of a government”. However, this definition is rather broad and generalized, which implies multiple crimes that might be categorized as terrorist acts depending on the circumstances.
On the other hand, hate crimes are associated with terrorism in a way that they are also committed with an intention to coerce or intimidate particular groups of population or individuals based on a given ideology. A murder or assault might be applied with hate crime attributes as an additional charge that intensifies the severity of the crime. For example, a murder that is committed with a suspect’s intention to assault a representative of a particular minority group based on “race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation”.
Nonetheless, both terrorists and hate criminals tend to select their victims based on ideological issues, which makes it difficult to conceptualize and clearly define each of these terms.