A hate crime in California is considered a criminal offense committed against someone else that is motivated by prejudice against the victim's specific characteristics. Common examples of such characteristics include race or ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or being part of a specific group.
Is a Hate Crime a Misdemeanor or Felony?
The answer is both. Additionally, misdemeanors and felonies motivated by prejudice will be subject to penalty enhancements.
There are several misdemeanors which specifically address hate crimes, such as willfully interfering with another person's constitutional or legal rights, disturbing a lawful public meeting, and disrupting a religious meeting. These misdemeanor offenses are all punishable by a maximum 364-day county jail term and costly fines.
Hate crime enhancements can turn a misdemeanor into a felony. Common examples of hate crime enhancements for misdemeanors include prejudice resulting in a victim's bodily injury and more than $950 of property damage, as well as being previously convicted of a hate crime. A felony conviction carries up to three years imprisonment and a maximum $10,000 fine.
When it comes to hate crime enhancement for felonies, they often refer to sentences rather than the crimes themselves. If there is an element of prejudice when committing a felony, sentence enhancements include an additional one, two or three years imprisonment if you committed the hate crime alone, an additional two, three or four years imprisonment if the hate crime was committed with another person, and an additional year imprisonment for each previous conviction for a felony hate crime.
The only “stand-alone” felony hate crime is murder. A murder conviction with bias as a motivating factor results in a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.
Not only does being accused of a hate crime lead to serious penalties, but also a negative stigma which could haunt you for the rest of your life. At Wilfert Law P.C., we are committed to protecting your rights, reputation, and future when facing hate crime allegations. Our Ventura criminal defense lawyers can evaluate your case, determine any weaknesses in the prosecution's argument, and create an effective defense strategy to either get your case dismissed altogether or your charges/penalties reduced.
For more information about hate crimes in California, contact us and schedule a free consultation today.