Prejudice, racism, and bigotry are, unfortunately, still alive and well in our society, despite the many accomplishments we’ve made with regard to the equitable treatment of all individuals. What is most unfortunate, however, is that some not only have prejudices, but decide to act on them. Hate crimes are serious offenses against other people and are harshly prosecuted and severely punished. This does not mean to say that in the effort to enforce and prevent hate crimes that situations cannot be blown out of proportion and labeled a hate crime when it was no such thing.
If you have been arrested for a hate crime in California, you face aggressive prosecution and harsh penalties. Your best chance of protecting your legal rights and your future is to speak to a criminal defense attorney who has experience in handling hate crime cases.
Hate Crime Defined
California Penal Code 422.55 defines a hate crime as “a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim”:
- Race or ethnicity;
- Sexual orientation; and
- Association with a group or person with at least one of these perceived or actual characteristics.
One of the key points of this definition is “actual or perceived.” This means that whether the characteristic is true or just thought to be true has no bearing on the incident’s designation as a hate crime. Claiming that the characteristic is not actually true is not a defense for a hate crime.
California Hate Crime Laws
According to Section 422.6 (a) of the CA Penal Code, it is illegal for any person to willfully intimidate, injure, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other individual by force or threat of force in the free enjoyment or exercise of any privilege or right as afforded by the Constitution or laws of California or the Constitution or laws of the U.S., in whole or in part, due to one or more of the perceived or actual characteristics of the individual, as described above.
Additionally, under Section 422.6 (b), it is illegal for any person to knowingly damage, destroy, or deface the personal or real property of another individual in order to intimidate or interfere with the free enjoyment or exercise of any privilege or right because of one or more of the perceived or actual characteristics as listed above.
What Are the Penalties for a Hate Crime?
Any person who is found guilty of violating either of the above subsections will be subject to the following penalties:
- Misdemeanor charge;
- Maximum one year in county jail;
- Maximum fine of $5,000; and/or
- Maximum 400 hours of community service over a period of 350 days.
Aggravating factors may increase the charge to a felony as well as increase the penalties to a maximum $10,000 fine and/or up to three years imprisonment in state prison.
Representation You Can Count On
A criminal defense lawyer who has substantial experience in handling hate crime cases is well aware of the most effective defense arguments and can ensure that you are not punished for a crime you did not commit. Self defense, false allegations, misleading evidence, and lack of bias are some of the defenses that may be used against unlawful charges. If you have been arrested for a hate crime in California, aggressive defense attorney David A Stein can build a strong defense on your behalf. To learn more about possibly getting the charges against you reduced or dropped entirely, contact Mr. Stein today at 949) 445-0040 for a consultation.