Being victimized by a crime is always difficult, but when the only reason a person was targeted was purely because of their particular race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or similar characteristic, the emotional impact can be devastating. That’s why California has enacted hate crimes legislation to punish those who commit crimes not due to desperation or personal conflicts, but out of harmful prejudice. If you have been accused of a hate crime in San Diego, it is critical you contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Being victimized by a crime is always difficult, but when the only reason a person was targeted was purely because of their particular race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or similar characteristic, the emotional impact can be devastating. That’s why California has enacted hate crime legislation to punish those who commit crimes not due to desperation or personal conflicts, but out of harmful prejudice. If you have been accused of a hate crime, it is critical you contact a Vista hate crime defense attorney as soon as possible.
Who is Protected by Hate Crime Laws?
California’s hate crime laws were enacted to protect citizens from being victimized based on their race, ethnicity, origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. While many people assume that means that minorities are protected against the actions of others in the majority, the law does not distinguish between one protected class or another. If a black, Jewish lesbian in a wheel chair used a gun to threaten a straight, white man because she claimed he was given too many privileges in life, she would be subject to hate crime charges just like the man would if the situation were reversed.
On the other hand, just because a victim is a different religion, gender, nationality, etc. than the perpetrator doesn’t mean a crime was a hate crime. Instead, the motivation for the crime must be purely out of hate. For example, if a white man carjacked a vehicle that belonged to a black man, it would not be charged as a hate crime unless he gave some indication that his motivation was due to race -by saying something like “these cars are too good for people like you,” for example. If someone is accused of a hate crime, the prosecution must prove that the defendant chose their victim based on a protected characteristic, which can be difficult in many cases, especially when you have lawyer fighting on your behalf.
Never Speak to Police Without Your Lawyer Present
When you are arrested, always remember that anything you say can and will be used against you, which is why you should always invoke your right to speak to your San Diego hate crime attorney as soon as you are placed under arrest. Failing to do so could result in your words being twisted around against you later on. For example, if you are arrested for assaulting someone you don’t like for personal reasons and make an angry, off-handed comment about that person’s sexual orientation or race while you are under arrest, the police could use that as evidence that you targeted the victim based on a protected category.
Penalties for Hate Crimes in California
Allegations of hate crimes can result in serious penalties being added to even the most minor crimes. In many cases, misdemeanors will be charged as felonies and if the crime was already a felony, you may face up to three years of extra prison time if the action was determined to be a hate crime. Additionally, if you are convicted of a hate crime, you will lose your ability to possess a firearm for the next decade.
It’s worth knowing that a hate crime charge is not a stand-alone charge, but what is known as an “enhancement.” This means that if you have been found innocent of the original charge, you cannot be convicted of the hate crime by itself. If you feel you may be convicted of the crime, your San Diego hate crime lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea bargain where these enhancements are dropped in exchange for your pleading guilty to the other crime.
If you have been accused of any type of crime and believe the police or prosecutor may try to argue that you targeted the victim based on some type of protected characteristic such as race or sex, call a San Diego hate crime lawyer like Peter M. Liss immediately. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.