What is a hate crime?A hate crime (also known as a bias-motivated crime) is a criminal act or attempted criminal act against an individual or group of individuals because of their actual or perceived membership in a certain social group, including: age, class, disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sex or sexual orientation. “Hate crimes” generally refers to criminal acts which are seen to have been motivated by hatred of one or more of the listed groups above. Incidents may involve sexual assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or hate mail. Free speech is protected by the United States Constitution and is not a hate crime. However, speech that carries a credible threat of violence against an individual or group of people is criminal. If the criminal offense was not committed because of bias, an appropriate criminal charge can nonetheless be filed.
Legal Definition“Hate crime” means a criminal act committed (including but not limited to those found below in 422.6), in whole or in part, becuase of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim:
- Race or ethnicity
- Sexual orientation
- Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.Cal. Pen. Code § 422.55.
Who are the victims of hate crimes?Any crime victim who feels targeted because of their actual or perceived membership in a certain social group is a victim of a hate crime. These crimes victimize both individuals and the entire community.
What to do if you’re a victim or witness of a hate crime…
- If it is an emergency, dial 911.
- Document any information you have regarding the crime as soon as possible after the incident. Include any details about the perpetrators physical appearance including gender, age, height, race, weight, clothes, and other distinguishing characteristics.
- File reports with your local police department and the FBI. Be sure to get the responding officer’s name and badge number and a case number. Get your own copy of the police report if possible. If you need the phone number for a local police department, please call 1-800-VICTIMS.
- Find support from friends/family and from a professional if needed.
Resources for victims of hate crimes…State Resources:
- California Fair Employment & Housing Commission Report a hate crime. 1-800-884-1684 (TTY: 800-700-2320)
- Anti-Violence Project Reporting, counseling, and attorney consult for victims. 1-800-373-2227 (Spanish: 877-963-4666)
- Office of the Attorney General Victims’ Services Unit Report a hate crime after reporting to local police. 1-877-433-9069
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation – Civil Rights/Hate Crimes Investigates and prosecutes hate crimes. 1-202-324-3000
- National Center for Victims of Crime Provides resources to victims of crime. 1-202-467-8700