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What is a Hate Crime?

Hate Crime imageHate crimes are criminal acts or attempted criminal acts against an individual or group of individuals because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability. Because they are targeted for who they are, victims of hate crimes continue to feel threatened long after an attack. These crimes victimize everyone – individuals and our entire community.

Some hate-motivated offenses do not rise to the level of a crime that can be charged in court. These acts are called hate incidents. Although they may not meet the definition of a crime, they leave individuals feeling victimized and can escalate into criminal behavior.

Free speech is protected by the United States Constitution and is not a hate crime. However, speech that carries a credible threat of violence against an individual or group of people is criminal.

The following acts are examples of hate crimes under California law when they are motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability:

  • Using force or threatening to use force to injure, intimidate, or interfere with another person who is exercising his or her constitutional rights
  • Defacing or damaging another person’s property to intimidate or interfere with that person’s free exercise of his or her constitutional rights
  • Desecrating a religious symbol or displaying a swastika on another person’s property with the intent to terrorize another person
  • Vandalizing, burning, or bombing a church, synagogue, mosque, or other house of worship to terrorize other persons

California Hate Crimes Statutes

Felonies

  • P.C. 422.7 – Commission of a crime for the purpose of interfering with another’s exercise of civil rights.
  • P.C. 594.3 – Vandalism of place of worship based on racial or religious bias.
  • P.C. 11412 – Threats obstructing exercise of religion.
  • P.C. 11413 – Use of destructive device or explosive or commission of arson in certain places.

Misdemeanors

  • P.C. 302 – Disorderly conduct during an assemblage of people gathered for religious worship at a tax-exempt place of worship.
  • P.C. 422.6 – Use of force, threats or destruction of property to interfere with another’s exercise of civil rights.
  • P.C. 422.9 – Violation of civil order (Bane Act) protecting the exercise of civil rights.
  • P.C. 538(c) – Unauthorized insertion of advertisements in newspapers and redistribution to the public.
  • P.C. 640.2 – Placing handbill, notice or advertisement on a consumer product or product package without authorization.
  • P.C. 11411 – Terrorism of owner or occupant of real property. Placement or display of sign, symbol or other physical impression without authorization, engagement in pattern of conduct, or burning or desecration of religious symbols.

Enhancements

  • P.C. 190.2(a)(16) – Special circumstances imposing the Death Penalty or Life Without possibility of Parole if the victim was intentionally killed because of race, color, religion, nationality, country of origin.
  • P.C. 190.3 – Special circumstances imposing Life Without possibility of Parole if the victim was intentionally killed because of sexual orientation, gender or disability.
  • P.C. 422.75 – Penalty for felony committed because of victim’s race, color, religion, nationality, country of origin, ancestry, disability or sexual orientation shall be enhanced one, two or three years in prison, if the person acts alone; and 2, 3 or 4 years if the person commits the act with another.

Note: If the criminal offense was not committed because of bias, an appropriate criminal charge can nonetheless be filed.