A hate crime is a crime against a person, group, or property motivated by the victim's real or perceived protected social group. You may be the victim of a hate crime if you have been targeted because of your actual or perceived: (1) disability, (2) gender, (3) nationality, (4) race or ethnicity, (5) religion, (6) sexual orientation, and (7) association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. Hate crimes are serious crimes that may result in imprisonment or jail time.
A hate incident is an action or behavior motivated by hate but which, for one or more reasons, is not a crime. Examples of hate incidents include:
- Displaying hate material on your own property.
- Posting hate material that does not result in property damage.
- Distribution of materials with hate messages in public places.
The U.S. Constitution allows hate speech as long as it does not interfere with the civil rights of others. While these acts are certainly hurtful, they do not rise to the level of criminal violations and thus may not be prosecuted. However, it is important to note that these incidents have a traumatic impact on the victims as well as on the community at large.
In California, under the Ralph Act, Civil Code § 51.7, your civil rights may be violated if you have been subjected to hate violence or the threat of violence – even where the incident does not rise to the level of a hate crime and may be otherwise constitutionally-protected from prosecution by the government – because of your actual or perceived: sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, immigration status, political affiliation, and position in a labor dispute. A civil violation may result in restraining orders, injunctive and/or equitable relief, damages, a civil penalty of $25,000, and attorney’s fees.