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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Cross Burning and Swastika Placement

Cross Burning and Swastika Placement


Earlier this spring, hundreds of Virginians gathered in Lancaster to protest a Ku Klux Klan cross burning that was planned for later that night in Quarryville, according to WITF News. Over two dozen leaders spoke out against racism and oppression, But was there anything legally that they could to do stop the cross burning? After all, cross burning is illegal in Virginia under some circumstances.

Burning a Cross with Intent to Intimidate

Because the cross burning was held on private property and the property owner condoned the burning, it was legal. According to Virginia statute 18.2-423, burning a cross in a public place with intent to intimidate is Class 6 felony. This includes the property of another person, highway, or any other public place. Burning a cross in such a manner is prima facie evidence of intent to intimidate. Prima facie evidence means that the act alone is evidence to establish intent. A Class 6 felony is punishable by one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500. However, in some circumstances, at a judge’s discretion, the punishment may be reduced to a maximum of 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500.

Burning an Object with Intent to Intimidate

As per Virginia statute 18.2-423.01, burning an object on the private property of another, without their permission, with intent to intimidate a person or group, is a Class 6 felony. Similarly, it is a Class 6 felony to burn an object on public property with the intent to intimidate a person when that action places another person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury.

Placing Swastikas on Property with Intent to Intimidate

Placing a swastika, with intent to intimidate, is a Class 6 felony as well when that property is a:

  • Church;
  • Synagogue;
  • Any other building or place that is used for religious worship; or a
  • School, community center, or educational facility that is owned by a religious organization.

Like burning a cross, placing a swastika on property is prima facie evidence of intent to intimidate.

Hate Crimes Across the Nation and in Virginia Increase Your Chances of Receiving Strict Punishment

Hate crimes have more than doubled in the last year since the presidential election in many municipalities across the country. In New York, anti-semitic hate crimes rose from 13 to 28 in one year alone, according to Politico, representing a 115 percent increase. Bomb threats against synagogues and mosques are growing, and hate crime graffiti has drastically increased as well. While placing swastikas and burning crosses is a Class 6 felony and presents a very serious chance of a long prison sentence, the recent uptick in hate crimes will only add fuel to the prosecution’s fire. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney has never been more important for alleged burnings and swastika placements. We strongly encourage you to contact the Leesburg law offices of Simms Showers, LLP at 703-997-782 today for experienced and aggressive legal defense.




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