A hate crime requires two components: it must be a punishable offense and it must be committed because of prejudice (motivated by hatred). Prejudices are negative opinions, stereotypical assumptions, intolerance or hatred towards a group of people because of their common characteristics. The most common characteristics related to prejudice are skin colour, ethnic origin, language used, religious beliefs, citizenship, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
A hate crime is a hate motivated threat, property damage, infliction of serious damage to health, physical abuse, murder or some other offense. Hate crimes do not only endanger people belonging to a particular group, they endanger anyone who may be considered to belong to those groups, as well as, for example, human rights defenders, community centres or shrines.
In Estonia, the legislator has not added a motive of hate to the aggravating circumstances of any criminal offense. This makes it much more difficult to combat hate crimes, as hate crimes may not be punished effectively and proportionately. It is therefore also difficult to get an overview of statistics on hate crimes.