When a crime is motivated by prejudice against a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs, it is considered a hate crime in the United States. While some states punish specific hate crimes, others have penalty enhancements if there is an element of prejudice in the case.
In California, there are both “stand-alone” hate crimes and hate crime enhancements.
Stand-Alone Hate Crimes in California
There are some misdemeanors that are considered stand-alone hate crimes, including:
- Disrupting a lawful public meeting
- Disrupting a religious meeting
- Willfully interfering with a person’s constitutional or legal rights
Each of these crimes is punishable by a maximum one-year jail term and costly fines.
If a person murders another individual based on prejudice, it is considered a hate crime that leads to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Hate Crime Enhancements in California
If a person commits a misdemeanor offense motivated by prejudice and causes a physical injury, up to $950 in property damage, or has been previously convicted of a hate crime, then the misdemeanor becomes a felony offense. A felony conviction results in a maximum three-year prison sentence and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
If a felony offense was committed as a hate crime, a conviction will result in one, two, or three more years added to the prison sentence. If a felony hate crime involved another individual or a group, a conviction will lead to two, three, or four more years added to the prison term. Lastly, one additional year in prison could be added for each previous felony hate crime conviction.
If you have been accused of a hate crime in Santa Barbara or Ventura County, contact Appel & Morse and schedule a free criminal consultation today.