Hate Crime Charges
Navigating Hate Crime Charges in California: A Felony or a Misdemeanor?
Understanding the intricacies of hate crimes in California requires careful navigation through various penal codes. There is no singular section of the code that fully encompasses the definition and implications of hate crimes. Instead, codes like California PC 422.55 define the circumstances that can qualify a crime as a hate crime.
The distinction between a hate crime being classified as a misdemeanor or a felony hinges on the specific penal codes applied to the crime and whether the hate crime charge stands alone or is supplemental to another charge.
Understanding California PC 422.55
California PC 422.55 outlines the specific parameters that can elevate a standard act of vandalism, intimidation, or violence to a hate crime. This code focuses not on the crime itself but rather on the motivations behind it.
Under this code, a crime may be labeled as a hate crime if it was motivated by a negative bias towards the victim’s:
- Sexual orientation
- Physical or mental disability
- Religious affiliation
- Or association with any organizations or groups that advocate for people in these categories.
While this penal code is not used directly for charging purposes, it plays an essential role in defining what constitutes a hate crime. Other related penal codes dictate whether a hate crime is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Interpreting California PC 422.6 and 422.7
California PC 422.6 classifies actions driven by hate as standalone crimes. This means a person can be charged with a hate crime even without any additional charges. Under this code, hate crimes are considered misdemeanors.
On the other hand, California PC 422.7 allows a hate crime charge to be appended to a preexisting charge. If an existing misdemeanor is influenced by hate, it can escalate to a felony.
For example, misdemeanor vandalism can upgrade to a felony if it is established that the act was propelled by bias or hatred. Using graffiti to deface a bakery window might be a misdemeanor, but using hate symbols in a Jewish-owned bakery escalates the crime to a felony due to the addition of the hate crime charge.
If the initial charge is a felony, adding a hate crime charge influences the sentencing guidelines, with additional time served depending on the severity of the crime.
Mounting a Strong Defense Against Hate Crime Charges
Regardless of whether a hate crime charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, certain factors can bolster a defendant’s case. It can often be challenging for a prosecutor to conclusively prove that a crime was motivated by hate or bias.
If the prosecutor is unable to substantiate the hate or bias motivation, the hate crime charge may not hold, even if the defendant is convicted of other charges. This could potentially reduce the sentence or downgrade a felony charge to a misdemeanor.
n if the prosecutor convinces the jury of a hate-driven motive, there may still be ways to mitigate the charge. The defense attorney must present a compelling case that the defendant’s actions were a response to prior actions against them or due to duress at the moment.
Accused of a Hate Crime in California?
The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Can Assist
With over 45 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, CA, Ronald Brower has an intimate understanding of the penal code and the criminal justice system. His expertise and skill are dedicated to ensuring you receive the best defense possible. Reach out to his office today to learn how he can help you defend against hate crime charges.