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, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation.

A "hate crime" can take two forms:
  1. "Hate crime" generally refers to criminal acts which are seen to have been motivated by hatred of one or more of the listed conditions.
  2. The second kind is hate speech, which is speech defined as a crime.

While hate crimes are rarely debated, the hate speech concept is controversial, as criminalizing speech can be seen as impugning freedom of speech. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters.