What Is Hate Crime: Its Definition and Laws

Hate crimes entail criminal offenses where victims are targeted based on their perceived race, religion, class, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, and disability. Over the years, many countries, including the United States, have struggled with hate crimes that have victimized millions of Americans, decreasing their feelings of security and safety.

Fortunately, hate crime laws exist to hold hate perpetrators accountable for their actions. For instance, the Department of Justice has set rules that accommodate the investigation and identification of hate crimes in California and issue warrants, arrests, prosecution, and conviction of hate perpetrators to keep the peace.

This article shall focus on what hate crime is and the appropriate laws to reduce its effect on society. Keep reading to learn more.


What Is Hate Crime?

Hate crime definition California entails any unlawful transgression or harassment against a person or group of people motivated by prejudice and resentment against their perceived demographics. Common hate crimes include:

  • Sexual orientation
  • Physical, mental, and sensory disabilities
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity
  • Geographical location
  • Nationality
  • Color
  • Racial identity

hate crime definition california

Witnessing prejudice and discrimination against another individual can result in mental distress. As such, it is crucial to understand that anyone can be a hate crime victim even without being targeted.

Offenders of hate crimes are motivated mainly by hate, anger, ignorance, and fear toward the affected party. This can result in the dehumanization of minority communities. 

For instance, studies illustrate that from 1972 to 2019, many African American/ Black communities experienced hate crimes. The LBTQIA+ communities, Hispanic, Islamic communities, and Asian Americans in the United States are not an exception.

However, though hate crimes have devastated millions of people, the U.S. territories and states have hate crime statutes in place, which are enforced by local and state law enforcement.

Hate Incident

A hate incident is an occurrence or event in progress likely motivated by hostility or discrimination against the victim based on their presumed gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or color, among others.

Hate incidents on the victims can escalate to crimes if the situation or event is not controlled. They often include:

  • Bullying or intimidation
  • Verbal abuse, such as insults
  • Online abuse, such as cyberbullying
  • Physical abuse, such as hitting, spitting, or punching
  • Damaging one’s property

Types of Hate Crimes

Like hate incidents, hate crimes often fall under three categories, incitement to hatred, verbal abuse, and physical assault. They include:

Incitement To Hatred

These crimes often occur when individuals produce content intended to stir up hatred toward their intended victims. This type of hate content includes:

  • Online chat forums where people offer hate speech towards a person or community they dislike.
  • Sending messages with the intention of causing violence against a person or group. For example, prejudiced people can send threatening letters to the intended parties to cause intimidation and raise fear and insecurity.
  • Posting pictures, videos, and messages of violence online against the people they perceive as different.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse mainly involves name-calling, sending threats, and insulting those perceived as different from others, especially the minority communities. 

If you are a victim of verbal abuse, consider recording every time a person insults or threatens you in public or private and talk to local law enforcement for further assistance.

Physical Abuse

Physical attacks involve any activity directed at you to cause bodily harm. They include hitting, punching, shoving, and stabbing. These physical attacks can easily result in battery, sexual abuse, or murder. As a victim, consider reporting the abuse immediately.

What To Do if You Are a Victim of Hate Crime

Below are some steps you can take if you are a hate crime victim.

  • Seek medical attention if necessary. This is especially helpful if you have been subjected to bodily harm.
  • Write down the crime details immediately to avoid forgetting. For instance, write down their physical description and distinguishing characteristics that make them stand out. Additionally, save all evidence, including hate messages or biased comments you receive.
  • File a report with the state or local law enforcement. State the exact words and actions that led to your hate crime. Ensure you also give a detailed description of your perpetrator.
  • Get social support from loved ones and medical professionals. If you are a victim of gang rape, ensure you seek help from a therapist to help you with your journey of acceptance and healing. Additionally, consider contacting community organizations responsible for responding to hate crimes.
  • Sort the help of an attorney. If the hate crime is quite severe and you need justice, an attorney can help you fight for your rights in court.

When seeking justice for a hate crime, remember under Marsy’s law, the California Victim’s bill of Rights Act article awards the victim the right to:

  • Getting their hate crime case heard upon request of the court and judge, including obtaining information on the case decision, plea, conviction, and sentencing if necessary.
  • Refuse an interview with the defendant or his attorney unless you give consent.
  • Receive protection against the defendant and any individuals working on his behalf.
  • Be treated fairly, respectfully, and without judgment during the justice process.   
  • Receive remuneration for any lost wages, medical expenses, and other losses incurred due to the hate crime.

Why Report Hate Crimes?

You must understand that hate crime attacks target the victim and are also meant to frighten or threaten an entire community. Therefore, reporting hate crimes toward a specific person or group is critical.

Here are a few reasons why you should report hate crimes.

  • To acknowledge the existence of the victim or community.
  • To eradicate the fear and humiliation backed by hate crimes. Reporting to the relevant authority allows you to control the narration to make a difference for you and your loved ones.
  • To help paint a picture of different hate crimes in your local area and help prevent them from happening to others.
  • To help local police and council agencies to educate, inform and protect society better.

Hate Crime Laws in California

In California, criminal acts targeted at a specific person or group of people because of their perceived characteristics, such as religion, nationality, or race, are readily considered hate crimes. Thus, the prosecution must prove that the perpetrators intended to cause havoc and interfere with the victim’s civil rights.

As such, the Penal Code 422.6 in California determines that any threats or acts of intimidation, oppression and abuse towards another person who has free reign to exercise his civil rights as per the constitution is regarded unlawful.

Anyone convicted under the Penal Code faces penalties of up to one year in the county jail or pays a fine of approximately $5.000. However, depending on the severity of the case, the perpetrators may be fined and jailed for their unlawful acts.

Thus, following a strict number of laws, California readily and aggressively prosecutes hate crimes to establish liability for the damage inflicted on the victims.

Here are some hate crime laws in California.

Misdemeanor Hate Crime Laws

The Penal Code 422.7 PC is the law that enforces penalties for misdemeanor crimes. According to California hate crime statute, a misdemeanor is any action driven by hate that seeks to intimidate, harm, or threaten to interfere with the exercise of a person’s legal rights.

As such, under this Penal Code, you may receive an additional penalty if:

  • The prosecutor proves beyond reasonable doubt that the offense committed meets the legal definition of a hate crime in California.
  • The prosecution proves you committed the hate crime to interfere with the victims’ legal rights.
  • If the misdemeanor crime inflicted bodily harm, property damage of more than $950, or has been formerly convicted of a hate crime.  

Felony Hate Crime Laws

For a hate crime to be termed a felony, the perpetrator should be tried under the Penal Code 422.75 PC.

So, if the defendant is convicted of a felony, proven to be a hate crime, as per the California statutes, the individual can receive up to three years jail term in state prison.

Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancements

California approved the Disarm Hate Act in 2017, prohibiting individuals from accessing firearms ten years after getting a hate crime conviction. The same applies to any prior misdemeanor convictions involving using and misusing deadly weapons.

So, if you are accused and convicted of a felony hate crime and it is alleged that you used a deadly weapon such as a firearm to threaten or intimidate, it can be a factor that enhances your hate crime sentencing.

Typically, under Penal Code 187 (a) PC, if you are charged with first-degree murder due to a hate crime, the crime is punishable by life in state prison.

You may also receive a one-year prison term for any hate crime convictions in the past.

Contact Garrett T. Rice for Help

If you are a hate crime victim, the crime’s extent may take a toll on you and your loved ones. Whether the case’s complicated or severe, the best solution is to contact a lawyer immediately after the incident.

Your attorney will stay committed to securing the best outcome for your case by thoroughly preparing and representing you in court. The dedicated team from Garret T. Rice will ensure they prepare a good defense and get a conviction by proving that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the crime committed was a hate crime intended to cause harm.

Contact Garret T. Rice for more information on hate crimes and how they apply to your case.

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