Hate Crime Laws

201510.06

Teenagers in a fightIn today’s world, it is unfortunate that crimes are being committed against others due to their race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or disability. Referred to as “hate crimes,” they are becoming more prevalent in the United States, as well as around the world. As a result, many states have passed laws where those who commit hate crimes may face much stiffer penalties because their crime met the legal definition of a hate crime.  If you are charged with this, you’ll need the help of a bondsman.

What is a Hate Crime?

Under California law, a hate crime is defined as a crime that interferes with another person’s civil rights or damages or destroys their property because they may have a sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic of which the person committing the crime disapproves. In addition, a crime may be considered a hate crime if the perpetrator commits a crime against others he believes to have certain characteristics. For example, if a person commits a robbery against a couple because he thinks they are Jewish, only to find out later they are not, he may still be charged with a hate crime due to the fact that the act was committed in part due to his perceptions about the victims.

Acting on a Threat

To be charged and convicted of a hate crime based on what one person says to another, the speech must not only threaten violence, but the person speaking must be able to carry out the violence based on the assumptions a reasonable person would make. For example, an older woman who is obviously frail and suffering the effects of dementia may confront a group of men and tell them she hates them because they are Hispanic and threatens to beat them up on the spot. However, she would not be charged with a hate crime in this case because while her words may have met the criteria for a hate crime, it’s obvious she would have no way to actually carry out the threat.

Hate Crimes Penalties

Under California law, the penalties for hate crimes can vary depending on whether the crime committed was a misdemeanor or felony. While most people who are charged with committing hate crimes will be allowed to be free on bail while they await their next legal hearing, the amount of bail set by the court may also vary based on the severity of the crime. In general, misdemeanor convictions carry a penalty of up to one year in a county jail, fines up to $5,000 and/or up to 400 hours of community service. For a felony conviction, the penalties are 16-36 months in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.

As the number of hate crimes and their severity have increased in recent years, states such as California have found it necessary to enact much stricter penalties in an effort to discourage such acts. However, until those who commit these acts realize their actions will be for naught, these and perhaps even stricter penalties will be necessary.