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California hate crimes are at an all time high. Governed by Penal Code sections 422.55, 422.6, 422.7, and 422.75, the prosecutor in a hate crime case must prove that your actions were motivated by characteristics of a protected class. The protected classes include: disabled, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. There are two ways in which you may be convicted of a hate crime. First, California laws prohibit anyone from preventing another to exercise their civil rights. In addition, vandalizing the property of one of the protected classes because of their class is against California law. The second way you can be convicted of a hate crime is by committing a crime (usually assault), and the prosecutor is able to prove that you committed the crime because of the victim’s status as a member of a protected class.
One thing that defendants should know is that hate crimes are often wrongful accusations. For example, simply committing a crime against someone of a protected class can easily be labeled a hate crime. However, most of the arguments revolve around the “motivation” aspect of the crime. In order for it to be a hate crime, it must be motivated by the fact that the victim is of a protected class. Motivation is an element that is difficult to prove, and it will vary in each case based on the facts.
A good criminal defense attorney will explore all avenues of legal defense in a hate crime case. First, the attorney should make it difficult for the prosecutor to prove each element of the underlying crime. If the prosecutor does not prove all elements of the underlying crime beyond a reasonable doubt, then there will be no need to argue motivation. While most law firms aim to have a hate crime reduced, the Coimbra Law Firm always aims higher. We believe it is in the client’s best interest to get the case thrown out altogether. Aside from creating an uphill burden for the prosecutor, a good defense attorney will also explore other ways to get the case thrown out. For example, there are First Amendment defenses that have worked in some cases. If the defendant’s conduct qualifies as free speech under the U.S. Constitution, the District Attorney cannot secure a conviction. However, a court can only throw the case out if the defense explores these routes.
It is absolutely critical to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are being accused of a hate crime. The California legislature has enacted harsh laws for those convicted of hate crimes – partly due to studies showing that hate crimes are far more violent and lethal than other types of crimes. In addition, studies show that victims of hate crimes are four times more likely to require hospitalization than victims. These statistics make it more likely that a defendant convicted of a hate crime will receive a harsh sentence. Finally, because hate crimes negatively impact the communities in which they occur, the severity of the sentence will depend upon which court the defendant is facing charges. An experienced attorney will also be familiar with how to handle hate crimes in each courthouse.