According to a report released by the FBI in November of this year, religiously-motivated hate crimes in the San Diego area have increased by 40 percent over the course of 2015. The authorities recorded 10 religiously motivated hate crimes in 2014, and in 2015 that number rose to 14. The total number of hate crimes – those that were motivated by disability, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion – was 36 in San Diego.
San Diego is Following National Trend
The increase in the number of religiously motivated hate crimes in San Diego is in line with a nationwide trend. Across the United States, the FBI reported a 67 percent increase in hate crimes directed at Muslims from 2014 to 2015, and many of these incidents were aimed at mosques specifically. There were more than three times as many attacks against mosques in 2015 as there were in 2014.
Some observers have linked the growing tide of xenophobia in the United States to the political rise of Donald Trump. While the president-elect has distanced himself from white supremacists who support him, Trump has on several occasions made statements that were threatening or offensive to religious, sexual, and ethnic minorities.
When such statements come from a recently elected head of state, some individuals may be emboldened to express their hatred for certain groups more publicly than before. For instance, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 437 incidents between November 8 and November 14 that targeted people of color, Muslims, immigrants, the LGBT community, and women.
How Does California Law Define Hate Crimes?
Making rude comments to someone because of their race or religion may be bad behavior, but it is not a criminal act in and of itself. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, which includes the right to make racist, sexist, or other offensive remarks. However, when such offensive remarks make the victim fear for their safety, or are attached to other criminal behavior, the law steps in.
Under California Penal Code 422.55 PC, a hate crime consists in harming, harassing, or threatening a person because of their:
- Race or ethnicity
- Sexual orientation
- Association with a person or group who that displays one of the above categories
Furthermore, California Penal Code 422.6 PC makes it a misdemeanor to keep people from exercising their civil rights, or to damage or destroy their property because one of the protected categories (listed above) applies to them. Similarly, California Penal Code 422.7 PC and 422.75 provide enhanced penalties for individuals who commit misdemeanors or felonies that are motivated (wholly or in part) by the victim’s belonging to a protected category.
Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away
California’s hate crime laws can apply to a wide range of situations and anyone may find themselves facing hate crime charges because of a lapse of judgment or a misunderstanding. If you’ve been charged with committing a hate crime, call McElfresh Law at (858) 756-7107 today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.