Racial discrimination is a pervasive problem not only in America but in the entire world. There have been extensive efforts and propaganda lead by many people all across the globe to combat racism, but it has yet completely eradicated the issue. This is due to the fact that racial harassment comes in different forms; some minorities do not even realize that they are becoming victims of it. One does not have to be exposed to explicit verbal abuse and racial slurs for it to be called racial harassment. Even be as subtle as being denied access to basic necessities just because of the color of your skin. It can happen in your school, your workplace, or even in your own home.
With that said, California has classified crimes that are committed based on a person's race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, religion, and disability as a hate crime under Penal Code PC 422.55. For the sake of simplicity, we will be focusing on the topic of race.
It is important to define the specifications and exemptions of this law in order to get a better picture of it. By law, a hate crime happens when a person's motive is influenced by his/her resentment towards a person's specific characteristics. An example would be punching another person solely due to the fact that he/she is Chinese. On the other hand, it is not a hate crime if the person broke the law for reasons other than the facts stated earlier. Punching another person out of rage, for instance, is not a hate crime. Nevertheless, it is still a violation under California Penal Code PC 242, otherwise known as the battery law.
Furthermore, the statute also mentioned the concepts of “actual” and “perceived” characteristics of the person. Below are brief definitions of the two:
- Actual: Refers to the case wherein the characteristics of the victim is established or proven. For instance, a white guy knows that his next-door-neighbor is black. Due to his strong ties to white supremacy, the former decides to kill the latter for no reason other than he was black. The victim's characteristic was actual and real; hence, it belongs in this classification.
- Perceived: Refers to the case wherein the characteristics of the victim were simply speculated or assumed by the suspect. For instance, a white guy suspects that his next-door-neighbor is Chinese. Due to his strong belief that the Chinese people are threats to American soil, the former decides to kill the latter for no reason other than he was Chinese. However, it turns out that the victim was actually Japanese. The victim's characteristic was only believed or perceived; hence, it belongs in this classification.
Actual or perceived, both suspects in the scenarios above will be convicted for violating California Penal Code PC 422.55. However, a separate law covers racial discrimination that happened in the workplace or housing projects. California Fair and Housing Act has made it unlawful for any individual to discriminate, harass, abuse, or torment another person in the workplace simply on the account of their race, gender, religion, and other characteristics.
Racial Harassment Charges
Since hate crimes are technically specialized cases for a wide range of legal offenses, the penalties will vary widely.
For misdemeanor cases, the punishments are as follows:
- A maximum of 1-year county jail sentence;
- A maximum fine of $5,000; and
- A maximum of 400 hours in community service.
Notice that the penalties above are more severe than normal misdemeanor charges. The penalties can go even heavier if the suspect:
- Committed a misdemeanor offense that resulted in an injury to the victim;
- Caused property damage exceeding a total of $950; and/or
- Has been previously convicted under PC 422.6.
For felony cases, the punishments are as follows:
- Additional 3 years in state prison on top of any other sentence that will be given by the judge;
- Greater fines
Get Professional Help From California Defense Lawyers
Getting accused of committing a hate crime will negatively affect your life as it will exacerbate the usual penalties that would be normally given to defendants who are not guilty of a hate crime. Should you or anyone you know face this type of case, contact your local defense attorney as soon as you can.
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