Penal Code 422.6 PC - Commission of a Hate Crime in California

Penal Code 422.6 PC is the California hate crime statute that makes it a crime for a person to interfere with another person's civil rights simply because of his or her:

  • disability,
  • gender,
  • nationality,
  • race or ethnicity,
  • religion,
  • sexual orientation, and/or
  • association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

In particular, the statute says:

“(a) No person…shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States…because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed in subdivision (a) of Section 422.55.

(b) No person…shall knowingly deface, damage, or destroy the real or personal property of any other person for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to the other person by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States…because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed in subdivision (a) of Section 422.55.”

Offenses committed under PC 422.6 are more commonly referred to as “hate crimes,” as defined under Penal Code 422.55.

Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:

  • Michelle is a member of an anti-immigrant hate group and, while observing a pro-immigrant rally held by immigrants, she pushes them down and knocks over signs and posters.
  • Kevin goes to a bar, notices a homosexual couple, and later beats one the men because of his sexual orientation.
  • Paco, who disfavors Muslim people, vandalizes a neighborhood mosque.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Penal Code 422.6. These include showing that an accused party:

Penalties

A violation of 422.6 PC is charged as a misdemeanor (as opposed to an infraction or a felony). The crime is punishable by:

Please note though that a defendant will receive enhanced penalties if:

  1. he committed a misdemeanor and a prosecutor can show that the offense was committed as a hate crime (as authorized under Penal Code 422.7), or
  2. he committed a felony and a prosecutor can show that the offense was committed as a hate crime (as authorized under Penal Code 422.75).

Our California criminal defense attorneys will address the following in this article:

hate crimes california graphic
Penal Code 422.6 PC is one of California’s hate crime statutes that makes it a crime for a person to interfere with another’s civil rights

1. What is the legal definition of a crime under Penal Code 422.6?

Penal Code 422.6 is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to do certain acts because of another's:

  • disability,
  • gender,
  • nationality,
  • race or ethnicity,
  • religion,
  • sexual orientation, and/or
  • association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.1

These “certain acts” include:

  1. Willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with or threaten someone in a way that could prevent them from exercising their rights under the laws of California, the California Constitution, federal law, or the U.S. Constitution, or
  2. Knowingly damage or destroy someone's property for the purpose of interfering with their legal and constitutional rights.2

The policy behind PC 422.6 is to protect the physical integrity of every person from unauthorized violence.3

2. Are there legal defenses to PC 422.6 accusations?

A person accused under Penal Code 422.6 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed.

Three common defenses to hate crime accusations are:

  1. not motivated by bias
  2. duress; and/or,
  3. no probable cause.

2.1. Not motivated by bias

An offense can only amount to a hate crime if a defendant committed an act because of a bias against a particular characteristic listed in PC 422.55 (e.g., race, gender, disability, etc.). This means it is a legal defense for an accused to show that while he may have committed a crime, he did not do so out of any bias.

2.2. Duress

Duress is a legal defense in which an accused basically says: “He made me do it.” The defense applies to the very limited situation in which a person commits an offense (here, a hate crime), because somebody threatened to kill him if the crime was not committed.

2.3 No probable cause

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that police must have probable cause before they can detain or arrest a suspect of a crime.

If a person was stopped or arrested for violating PC 626.10, and there was no probable cause, then any evidence obtained following the improper stop/arrest could get excluded from the case. This exclusion could result in the dismissal or reduction in charges.

woman behind bars
A violation of this crime can result in a fine and/or jail time or community service

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of Penal Code 422.6 is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • misdemeanor (summary) probation,
  • up to one year in county jail,
  • a fine of up to $5,000, and/or
  • 400 hours of community service.4

Please note though that a defendant will receive enhanced penalties if:

  1. he committed a misdemeanor and a prosecutor can show that the offense was committed as a hate crime,5 or
  2. he committed a felony and a prosecutor can show that the offense was committed as a hate crime.6

Enhanced penalties mean:

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to the commission of a hate crime. These are:

  1. assault – PC 240,
  2. battery – PC 242, and
  3. disturbing a religious meeting – PC 302

4.1. Assault – PC 240

Penal Code 240 PC is the California statute that makes assault a crime.

Per PC 240, a “simple assault” is an attempt to commit a violent injury on someone else.7

A violation of this statute is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.8

4.2. Battery – PC 242

Penal Code 242 PC is the California statute that makes battery a crime.

Per PC 242, a “simple battery” consists of any willful and unlawful use of force or violence on someone else.9

A violation of PC 242 is charged as a misdemeanor in California. The penalties may include:

  • a fine of up to $2,000, and/or
  • up to six months in county jail.10

4.3. Disturbing a religious meeting – PC 302

Penal Code 302 PC makes it a crime to disturb a religious meeting.

Disrupting a religious service is a misdemeanor in California law. The potential penalties include:

  • up to one year in county jail; and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.11

Were you accused of committing a hate crime in California? Call us for help…

california hate crime defense attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 422.6 PC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

For information on Nevada's hate crime laws, please see our article on: Nevada "Hate Crime" Laws (NRS 193.1675).


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 422.6 PC. This statute states: “a) No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States in whole or in part because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed in subdivision (a) of Section 422.55.

    (b) No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall knowingly deface, damage, or destroy the real or personal property of any other person for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to the other person by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States, in whole or in part because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed in subdivision (a) of Section 422.55.”

  2. See same.

  3. People v. Lashley (1991), 1 Cal. App. 4th 938.

  4. California Penal Code 422.6 PC.

  5. California Penal Code 422.7 PC.

  6. California Penal Code 422.75 PC.

  7. California Penal Code 240 PC.

  8. California Penal Code 241 PC.

  9. California Penal Code 242 PC.

  10. California Penal Code 243 PC.

  11. California Penal Code 302 PC.

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