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 a top Vista hate crime lawyer fighting on your behalf.
Penalties for Hate Crimes
Hate crime charges can result in serious penalties being added to even the most minor crimes. In many cases, misdemeanors will be charged as felonies if a hate crime has been involved 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. If you feel you may be convicted of the crime, your Vista hate crime attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain where the hate crime charges are dropped in exchange for your pleading guilty to the other crime.
It is important to remember that once you are placed under arrest, everything you say can be held against you. That is why you should always refuse to answer any questions related to the accusations against you until you have spoken to a skilled Vista hate crimes lawyer like Peter M. Liss otherwise you may say something that could hurt your case later. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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