January 12, 2015 By Paul Wallin

What is the Difference Between Assault and a Hate Crime?

When a criminal act is committed against a person and at least part of the motivation to commit the act is based on race, color, sexual orientation, religion, gender, ethnicity, or disability, the crime becomes a hate crime in the eyes of the law and the charges for the crime are significantly enhanced.

There are many laws that govern hate crimes, and these can involve misdemeanor and felony crimes. Here we look at California hate crime statutes as they relate to the crime of assault.

Assault (California Penal Code Section 240)

You may face an assault charge if you threaten to hit someone.
If you threaten to hit someone, you may be charged with assault.

California Penal Code Section 240 defines assault as “an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” To be convicted of the crime of assault, the prosecution must prove that –

  • You used forced against someone, or did something that would result in force
  • You did this willingly
  • You knew your act would probably result in use of force against the person

Assault does not mean you physically attacked a person, just that you threatened, menaced, or made a statement that made another person believe they were going to be attacked.

While most assault crimes are charged as misdemeanors, there are specific elements that could raise the offense to a felony.

An example of assault would be threatening to hurt someone.

Penalties and Punishments of Assault (California Penal Code Section 241)

Under California law, assault is punishable by:

  • A maximum fine of $1,000
  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Both fine and jail 4

Hate Crimes (California Penal Code 422.55)

California hate crime laws are complex.
A number of California’s hate crime laws can be complex.

California hate crimes, as well as their penalties and punishments begin with California Penal Code 422.55, which 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:

(1) Disability
(2) Gender
(3) Nationality
(4) Race or ethnicity
(5) Religion
(6) Sexual orientation
(7) Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics 2

Civil Rights Crimes and Punishments (California Penal Code Section 422.6)

California Penal Code Section 422.6 says that if you interfere in any way with a person(s) civil rights, or destroy or damage their property because a person(s) has any of the characteristics listed in California Penal Code 422.55, you have committed a crime. 3

The penalties and punishments for violating California Penal Code Section 422.6 include:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $5,000
  • Both fine and jail
  • A maximum of 400 hours of community service to be completed within 350 days

Misdemeanor Crimes Are Enhanced Under California Penal Code Sections 422.7

If you violate California Penal Code 422.6, and you are convicted but did not receive a jail sentence, California Penal Code Section 422.7 declares that if that crime was a hate crime, you will be punished by:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Both fine and jail

This means that under California Penal Code Sections 422.7, if you commit misdemeanor assault and you were at least partly motivated to commit assault on a person because one of the characteristics listed in California Penal Code 422.55, you will be charged with a hate crime and your sentence will be enhanced.

Felony Crimes are Enhanced under California Penal Code Section 422.75

If you are facing a hate crime charge, call Wallin & Klarich today.
Have you been falsely accused of committing a hate crime? We can help.

If you are charged with felony assault that was motivated by bias or hate, or if you attempt to commit felony assault that is motivated in part by bias or hate, you could receive an additional sentence of one, two, or three years in California state prison. 5 

At Wallin & Klarich, we have over 40 years of experience in successfully representing clients charged with assault and hate crimes. Drawing from our extensive experience, we will thoroughly review your assault charge and develop an effective defense strategy that is specifically tailored to your case. Our goal is to provide you with the best legal representation possible.

We have offices located in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura,Victorville and West Covina so that we can help you no matter where you work or live.

Call our talented assault and hate crime defense attorneys today at (877)4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

1. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=240-248]
2. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=422.55-422.57]
3. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=422.6.]
4. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=422.7.]
5. [http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml]

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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