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Hate Crimes – California Penal Code 422.55, 422.6, 422.7, 422.75 PC

Under California law, a criminal act committed against another person that is motivated by prejudice against certain characteristics of that person is considered a hate crime. Pursuant to California Penal Code 422.55, these characteristics include:

  • Disability;
  • Gender;
  • Nationality;
  • Race or ethnicity;
  • Religion;
  • Sexual orientation; or
  • Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.
Hate crime in California.
A criminal act motivated by religion may be considered a hate crime by the court.

Under this Penal Code section, a crime committed “in whole or in part” because of characteristics within these protected categories may qualify as a hate crime. The term “in whole or in part” means that a prohibited bias against the alleged victim does not have to be the only motivating factor for the alleged crime. For example, if the court finds that you committed battery that was motivated in part by the alleged victim’s race or ethnicity, and also motivated in part due to his or her offensive remarks towards you, you could be convicted of a hate crime motivated by racial prejudice.

Penal Code 422.6(a) states that it is unlawful to use force or threat of force to “willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the constitution or laws” of California or the United States.

Further, according to California Penal Code 422.6(b), it is a hate crime to “knowingly deface, damage, or destroy the real or personal property of any other person for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to the other person” by the US Constitution or state law.

Prosecution of Hate Crimes in California

In order for you to be convicted of a hate crime in California, the prosecution must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt, depending on the type of hate crime you have been charged with.

Hate Crime: Misdemeanor Interference with Civil Rights by Force – California Penal Code 422.6(a)

You can be convicted of the misdemeanor hate crime of interfering with another’s civil rights by force pursuant to California Penal Code 422.6(a) if the prosecution proves that you:

  1. used force to willfully interfere with another person’s free exercise or enjoyment of a right or privilege as established by the law;
  2. did so in whole or in part because of the person’s perceived or actual protected characteristic; AND
  3. intended to interfere with the other person’s legally protected rights or privileges.

Hate Crime: Misdemeanor Interference with Civil Rights by Threat – California Penal Code 422.6(a) & (c))

You can be convicted of the misdemeanor hate crime of interfering with another’s civil rights by threat pursuant to California Penal Code 422.6(a)&(c) if the prosecution proves that you:

  1. threatened physical violence against a specific person or group of people;
  2. appeared able to carry out the threat;
  3. used the threat to interfere with the person’s or persons’ rights or privileges;
  4. did so in whole or part because of the persons’ perceived or actual protected characteristics; AND
  5. intended to interfere with such rights or privileges.

Hate Crime: Misdemeanor Interference with Civil Rights by Damaging Property – California Penal Code 422.6(b)

Prosecution in a hate crime case California.
The prosecution must prove certain elements in your case for you to be found guilty of committing a hate crime.

You can be convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime of interfering with another’s civil rights by damaging their property pursuant to California Penal Code 422.6(b) if the prosecution proves that you:

  1. defaced/damaged/destroyed real or personal property owned/used/possessed/occupied by another person;
  2. knew that you were damaging such property;
  3. did so for the purpose of interfering with the person’s rights and privileges;
  4. did so as a result of the person’s protected characteristics; AND
  5. had the intent to do so.

Hate Crime: Misdemeanor Interference with Civil Rights By Force Resulting in Physical Injury or Property Damage Exceeding $950 – California Penal Code 422.7

You can be convicted of the misdemeanor hate crime of interfering with another’s civil rights by force resulting in personal injury or property damage exceeding $950 pursuant to California Penal Code 422.7 if the prosecution proves that:

  1. When committing the alleged crime, you intended to interfere with the another person’s legally protected rights or privileges;
  2. You did so in whole or in part because of the person’s perceived or actual protected characteristic; AND
  3. When committing the alleged crime, you caused or had the physical ability to cause:
    a. Physical injury upon the alleged victim; OR
    b. Property damage in excess of $950.

Hate Crime: Felony Interference with Civil Rights – California Penal Code 422.75

You can be convicted of a felony hate crime of interfering with another’s civil rights pursuant to California Penal Code 422.7 if the prosecution proves that:

  1. You were biased against the other person based on their actual or perceived (disability/gender/nationality/race or ethnicity/religion/sexual orientation/or association with a person or group having these actual or perceived characteristics; AND
  2. this bias caused you to commit a felony.

Hate Crime: Felony Interference with Civil Rights Resulting in First Degree Murder – California Penal Code 422.75

You can be convicted of a felony hate crime of interfering with another’s civil rights resulting in first degree murder pursuant to California Penal Code 190.03 if the prosecution proves that:

  1. You were biased against the other person based on their actual or perceived (disability/gender/nationality/race or ethnicity/religion/sexual orientation/or association with a person or group having these actual or perceived characteristics; AND
  2. this bias caused you to commit murder.

Sentencing and Punishment for Hate Crimes in California

Under California law, punishment for a hate crime conviction varies depending on the type of alleged crime and contains a number of sentencing enhancements and mandated conditions for probation.

Punishment for Misdemeanor Hate Crimes

Pursuant to California Penal Code 422.6(c), if you are found guilty of committing any misdemeanor hate crime in California, you face imprisonment in county jail for up to 364 days, a $5,000 fine, or both jail and fine. In addition, you can be ordered to participate in community service for up to 400 hours which must be completed within 350 days.

Misdemeanor Hate Crime Sentence Enhancements

Under California Penal Code 422.7, your sentence and punishment can be increased under the following circumstances:

  • if the act involved a violent injury or the present ability to inflict one (PC 422.7(a));
  • if the act caused property damage totaling over $950 (PC 422.7(b)); or
  • if you have a prior hate crime conviction on your criminal record (PC 422.7(c)).

If you commit a criminal act under any of the aforementioned conditions, you may be punished by imprisonment in county jail for up to 364 days (unless the act is punishable by state prison) or a fine of up to $10,000, or both jail and fine.

Punishment for Felony Hate Crimes

If you are convicted of a felony hate crime in California, you face both a sentence in state prison for the underlying felony crime, and an additional sentence for the hate crime conviction.

Punishment for hate crime conviction in California.
The punishment for committing a hate crime in California can be severe. You need a strong team of attorneys fighting on your behalf.

Felony hate crime: If you are convicted of a felony hate crime in California, you may be sentenced to an additional one, two or three years in state prison (PC 422.75).

Felony hate crime in concert: If you are convicted of acting in concert with another person to commit a felony hate crime, you may be sentenced to an additional two, three or four years in state prison (PC 422.75(b)).

Felony hate crime using a firearm: If you are convicted of committing a felony hate crime while using a firearm, the court may lengthen your sentence at its discretion (PC 422.75(c)).

Prior felony hate crime convictions: If you were previously convicted of a felony hate crime in California, you may be sentenced to an additional one year in state prison for each prior conviction (PC 422.75(d)).

If you are granted probation for a hate crime conviction, you may be subject to a protective order by the court including stay-away conditions (or restraining orders) requiring you to stay away from the alleged victim. Further, to satisfy probation, you may be ordered to:

  • complete a racial/ethnic sensitivity program;
  • make payments to an organization which provides services to victims of hate violence;
  • compensate the victim for counseling expenses; or
  • pay any other restitution or fines deemed appropriate by the court.

Possible Defenses to Hate Crimes

Committing a hate crime is a very serious offense in California. If you are accused of committing a hate crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you. Some arguments that your attorney can make on your behalf include:

The Bias Was Not Substantial

A substantial factor must be more than a trivial or remote factor. Your criminal defense attorney can argue that even if you did commit a crime, it was not substantially motivated by bias towards any of the protected characteristics of the victim, and thus it was not a hate crime.

Self-Defense

If you commit a criminal act out of fear of harm to yourself or another, you should not be found guilty of the underlying crime. If you are not found guilty of the underlying crime, you cannot be liable for the additional charge of a hate crime.

Lack of Intent

If the court finds that you did not intend to interfere with another’s legally protected right or privilege, you cannot not be found guilty of a hate crime. For example, if you committed an act of violence on someone with protected characteristics and the act was unintentional or caused by mere negligence, it is not a hate crime.

Frequently Asked Questions on California Hate Crimes

What if the criminal act was not primarily motivated by race, religion, etc.?

Under PC 422.56(d), a criminal act can still be considered a hate crime even if the victim having certain characteristics was not the only reason for the act. For example, if you robbed someone because you needed money, but were also found by the court to have selected the victim for their racial makeup, you can still be convicted of a hate crime. In addition, if it is found that you selected the victim because of his or her association with someone with any of these certain characteristics, you could be convicted of a hate crime.

If I use a derogatory term when speaking, is that considered a hate crime?

No, not unless you say or do something which incites or otherwise calls for violence and you are capable of carrying this threat out. Under PC 422.6 (c), no person may be convicted based upon speech alone.

Is it still a hate crime if I committed a crime against an inanimate object, not a person?

Yes. Under PC 422.56(i), a building or facility can still qualify as a victim. For example, if you vandalized a place of worship due to a bias against the religion which the building was established for, you may have committed a hate crime.

Is it still a hate crime if the victim did not actually have any of the protected characteristics?

Yes. Even if the act was committed under mistaken belief, it is still a hate crime. Under PC 422.55(a), the crime must have been committed as a result of both “actual or perceived characteristics”. For example, if you assaulted someone because you thought they were homosexual when they actually were not, you may still be convicted of a hate crime.

Call Wallin & Klarich Today If You Have Been Charged with Committing a Hate Crime

Wallin & Klarich hate crime attorneys
Contact the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today if you are accused of committing a hate crime.

If you are facing charges of committing a hate crime in California, contact our experienced attorneys at Wallin & Klarich. Wallin & Klarich has over 30 years of experience in successfully defending those charged with hate crimes. Let us help you, too.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, we can help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.

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