Based on California law, the motivation behind you committing a crime can have a lot of merit in the eventual sentencing. California’s hate crime statutes start with the Penal Code 422.55 PC. Under this law, anyone who has the intention to threaten, harm or harass someone because of gender, disability, race, nationality or sexual orientation will classify as a hate crime. The hate crime laws of California have two major distinctions. First, you have Penal Code 422.6 PC. This makes it a crime to interfere with the civil rights of someone else or to destroy their property because of one of these characteristics. Penal Code 422.7 PC says that those who commit crimes like vandalism and assault have been motivated by how the victim has one of the characteristics.
Examples of Hate Crimes
Let’s take the example of someone who stands outside during election day. However, whenever a person of Hispanic descent arrives, he gives the voters false information about how to cast ballots. Under California law, this man could be charged with a hate crime because he has willfully chosen to interfere with the civil rights of a person based on their ethnicity. Another example is if a woman threatens to do violence against her neighbors, and they’re a homosexual couple. The woman could face charges for a hate crime under the threats law. She could face several years in prison for making threats, but if it’s found to be due to the gay couple’s sexual orientation, she will also face additional years for a hate crime.
Another example is when a few teenagers have gone out to vandalize a mosque. They put pork on the doorstep and shot out the windows of the mosque. These teenagers face regular vandalism charges, but if the courts can prove their crimes were motivated against the Muslim religion, they could also be charged with a hate crime.
The word hate crime, unfortunately, gets thrown around too easily. People often get accused of doing a hate crime when there was no evidence to back it up. Many times this happens simply because the victim came from another social or ethnic group that differs from the perpetrator. That’s not to say that hate crimes don’t exist, but it’s common for the prosecution to try to make a mountain out of the case to give the defendant an even longer prison sentence.
What Should You Do When Charged with a Hate Crime?
For those who have been charged with a hate crime, they should hire an attorney as soon as possible to raise up a qualified legal defense. Some of the defenses a person can use is that they didn’t even commit a crime. They were falsely accused. You might also say how you commit the crime, but you didn’t do it out of a bias against a specific group. You might have a specific conduct, but this gets protected under the free speech laws of the United States.
Where Hate Crimes Don’t Qualify
Not everyone can be charged with a hate crime in California. For example, there has to be a significant reason to fear violence behind the actions. Let’s take the case of Martha, a frail but petite 75-year-old woman who has Alzheimer’s. Martha walks outside of a Jewish temple and confronts a group of tall and muscular men. She attacks them on how much she hates the Jews, and she threatens that she will beat them up with her bare hands to show how weak the Jews are. The Penal Code 422.6 PC means that Martha probably won’t be charged with a hate crime because she didn’t have the means to carry out her actions. The men she spoke with were likely aware of this. While Martha’s actions were very distasteful, they probably won’t get her convicted of a crime.
Some of the potential penalties for a hate crime include a $5,000 fine, 400 hours of community service, one year in the county jail and probation with a misdemeanor. For someone who has committed physical violence against someone else, the penalties can be stiffer, and they can tack on additional years to a prison sentence. The penalty for a hate crime largely depends on what the person did.