Crimes are committed daily and for a variety of reasons. However, when the crime is committed because of a particular characteristic of the victim, that crime becomes a hate crime. Being found guilty of this type of crime, means that there will be added penalties at sentencing. Additionally, a hate crime is also recognized in California penal code as a stand-alone offense.
The basis of hate crime legislation is to protect the constitutional and civil rights of individuals who are subjected to potential hate. If you are charged with a hate crime in California, the penalties are severe and you will need a San Diego hate crime lawyer.
What is a Hate Crime?
Any crime that is committed against a victim because of the following will be characterized as a hate crime:
- Race or ethnicity;
- Religion; or
- Sexual orientation.
In California, the hate crime can stand alone and is defined as any harm, threat or harassment of individuals in relation to the above characteristics. Also, the law recognized all other crimes that are partially motivated by the said characteristics to be hate crimes, and if found guilty will result in enhanced penalties.
What Penalities Can Happen from a Hate Crime?
The penalties associated with a hate crime will depend on whether the matter proceeds as a misdemeanor or as a felony. As a stand-alone crime, a hate crime is charged as a misdemeanor and you will face the following penalties:
- Up to one year behind bars;
- Maximum fine of $5,000; and/or
- Community service.
If you are being charged for a misdemeanor crime which is partly motivated by hate, then such a crime becomes a hate crime and the law classifies this offense as a wobbler. In such circumstances, the prosecutor may proceed with the charge as a misdemeanor or as a felony.
As a felony, the following penalties will apply:
- 16 months to 3 years in prison;
- Fines up to $10,000;
When the hate crime is a classification for an underlying crime, the above penalties are in addition to any other penalties to enhance sentencing. The same principle applies if you are charged with a felonious crime and it is classified as a hate crime. Enhanced penalties will include additional prison time of up to four years.
Can My Rights Be Defended?
Being charged with a hate crime is a serious matter. Nevertheless, you are innocent until proven guilty and with the right San Diego hate crime lawyer, you will be able to prepare a sound defense.
Since we live in a country with many differences, it is easy to allege that any particular criminal behavior is a hate crime, when the victim has an opposing characteristic from the offender. If you are charged with an underlying crime that is being classified as a hate crime, it will be important to prove that you did not commit that underlying offense. If, however, you are charged with a hate crime as a stand-alone, your defense can include your right to free speech under the constitution.
There is a strong stigma attached to hate crimes. Offenders are often times seen as guilty before even facing a court. In some instances, even after beating their charges, a good reputation is hard to regain. Accordingly, it is important to have a lawyer from the start, who will be able to mitigate some of that bad publicity and prepare a defense that will secure your freedom.
How A San Diego Hate Crime Lawyer Can Help You
California law is tough on hate crimes. If you are charged with such an offense or your current charge is being classified as a hate crime, you will need a lawyer with the knowledge and experience in criminal defense law. For years, McElfresh Law has been providing high-quality legal representation to many facing charges of hate crimes. Our lawyers have dedicated their legal career to criminal defense litigation and are giants in the courtroom.
You can rely on our commitment to stand with you in this troubling time in your life. We are equipped with a professional legal support team trained in legal research and investigation. Our initial goal is to get your charges dismissed and if your matter must proceed to trial, we are always in a position to prepare and advance a defense on your behalf. Hate crime legislation is complex and the penalties are severe. Do not leave your legal representation to chance. Call McElfresh Law today at (858) 756-7107 and let Jessica McElfrehs be your San Diego hate crime lawyer of choice.