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Two Men Sentenced in CA Hate Crime Case

Posted on in Criminal Defense

San Jose criminal defense attorney, hate crime caseThe Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity” and notes that approximately 5,500 hate crime incidents are reported by law enforcement agencies across the United States annually. Hundreds of these incidents occur in California each year. In fact, one highly publicized hate crime that occurred in Richmond, California and gained national attention last fall is once again in the news this week as the offenders involved were recently sentenced.

This case involved a 42-year-old Sikh man who was attacked one night while driving home. The Los Angeles Times reports that the victim was stopped at a red light when the occupants of a white Ford F-150 pulled up next to him, started throwing beer cans at his car, and then pursued him after the light turned green. Then, while stopped at a second red light, two men got out of the truck, reached through the victim’s window, grabbed him, and repeatedly punched him in the face while yelling profanities. Additionally, the attackers knocked off the victim’s turban, grabbed his long hair, and cut parts of it off with a knife. Cutting a Sikh man’s hair is culturally considered to be humiliating, so consequently the victim tried to stop the knife with his hand and cut his finger in the process. As a result, the victim’s pinky finger had to be amputated.

Based on this incident, two of the attackers were charged with, and plead no contest to, felony assault and committing a hate crime. Each attacker has since been sentenced to serve three years in prison.

California’s Hate Crime Statute

Under California Penal Code section 422.55(a), a hate crime is defined as a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim:

  • Disability;
  • Gender;
  • Nationality;
  • Race or ethnicity;
  • Religion; or
  • Sexual orientation.

Essentially, the rest of California’s hate crime statute can be broken down into two parts. The first part makes it a stand-alone crime to interfere (or threaten to interfere) with someone’s civil rights, or knowingly deface, damage, or destroy his or her property, because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed above. Additionally, the second part of the statute provides for enhanced penalties for any offender who was motivated to commit a crime because of the victim’s actual or perceived affiliation with one of the characteristics noted above.

Legal Defenses to Hate Crimes

While each hate crime case is different, experienced criminal defense attorneys in California often make one of the following arguments in court when defending a client who has been accused of committing a hate crime:

  • My client did commit the underlying crime but his or her actions were not motivated by bias and therefore his or her actions do not constitute a hate crime;
  • My client did not commit the crime in the first place and has fallen victim to false accusations, mistaken identity, etc.; or
  • My client’s conduct qualifies as free speech and is therefore protected under the first amendment.

Reach Out to Us for Help Today

If you or your loved one has been accused of committing a hate crime in California, be sure to seek counsel from a passionate San Jose criminal defense attorney without delay. At Jachimowicz Law Group, our experienced San Jose criminal defense lawyers have a long history of getting our clients’ charges reduced, or dismissed altogether, and we would be happy to help you. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Sources:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-richmond-sikh-man-assault-plea-20170518-story.html

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/civil-rights/hate-crimes

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