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Report Shows Increase in Orange County Hate Crimes

On September 26, 2019, the Orange County Human Relations Commission released is annual hate crime report. The Commission stated that there has been an upward trend of these types of cases in the past 5 years, and the greatest increase occurred between 2017 and 2018.

To develop the report, the OC Human Relations Commission compiled data on hate crimes from law enforcement, school districts, colleges, universities, community based organizations, and individuals. Analysts then review the information to ensure there are no duplicates and the incidents reported meet the legal definition of a California hate crime.

What Constitutes a Hate Crime?

Under California Penal Codes 422.6 and 422.55, a hate crime is a criminal act committed against another person based on their perceived or actual membership in a protected class.

A hate crime can include, but is not limited to:

  • Damaging, destroying, or defacing someone else’s property
  • Uses force, threats, or threat of injury to prevent someone from exercising their Constitutional rights

An incident becomes a hate crime when a person engages in unlawful behavior because of their perception of the other individual’s:

  • Disability,
  • Gender,
  • Nationality,
  • Race or ethnicity,
  • Religion, and/or
  • Sexual orientation

A criminal act could also be considered a hate crime if the actor committed it against a person they believe associates with someone in one or more of the protected classes.

What Are the OC Statistics?

According to the OC Human Relations Commission report, in 2018, there were 67 reported hate crimes in Orange County. That is a 12% increase from the previous year. The Commission noted that the Attorney General reported a 2.5% decrease in state hate crimes, but it stated that their information included that from schools that were not in the state’s report.

Hate crime reports by offense type in the county were as follows:

  • Vandalism: 21%
  • Simple assault: 13%
  • Criminal threats: 3%
  • Aggravated assault: 3%

Offenses were committed against various individuals.

The percentage of hate crimes based on group type were as follows:

  • Race, ethnicity, national origin: 42%
  • Religion: 34%
  • Sexual orientation: 16%

A 2018 Hate Crime Offense

The report also referenced the most serious hate crime committed in the area: The murder of a 19-year-old man. The man was Jewish and openly gay. He had been stabbed to death and was found in a shallow grave in Lake Forest Park. The man accused of killing him was charged with murder with a hate crime enhancement.

Hate Incidents Also Increased

The OC Human Relations Commission also examined hate incidents that occurred in the area to identify trends and look for ways to strengthen education programs. It found what it calls an “alarming” increase in these types of incidents. According to the report, in 2018, there were 165 hate incidents, which is 37% more than in 2017.

Hate incidents differ from hate crimes in that the former is biased non-criminal behavior based on another person’s actual or perceived membership in a class, whereas the latter are biased criminal actions.

Hate incidents are generally protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. Courts have ruled that unless an utterance or written document will lead to violence, it is not prohibited.

Hate incidents could include, but are not limited to:

  • Distributing racist fliers
  • Holding up anti-gay signs at an event held in public
  • Writing a letter expressing negative opinions about a certain class of people

For the Legal Representation You Need, Contact Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC

Because there are nuances between what constitutes a hate crime and a hate incident, you might have been charged even if your actions don’t meet the legal definitions of a criminal offense. If you’re facing accusations, our lawyers will examine every detail of your case to ensure your rights are protected.

Schedule your free consultation by filling out an online contact form or discuss your case by calling us at (949) 251-0330.