What is a Hate Crime?
Hate 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
- Defacing or damaging another person’s property to intimidate
or interfere with that person’s free exercise of his or her
- 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
Prosecuting Hate Crimes
California has a number of laws which specifically apply to hate
crimes. They can be prosecuted either as misdemeanors or felonies,
depending on the severity of the offense. Misdemeanors can be elevated
to felonies if they are hate-motivated crimes. Convictions of felonies
with hate crime enhancements can result in the standard sentence plus an
additional one to four years in state prison.
Reporting Hate Crimes to Police
If you are a victim of a hate crime, it is important that you
report it to law enforcement. To report a hate crime, please call
your local law enforcement agency.
Please contact your local law enforcement agency.