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What are the legal defenses and potential penalties of the “wobbler” charge of Hate Crime

When it comes to hate crimes, in the State of California, they can get charged under three different penal codes, all of which lead to different penalties. 

With Penal Code 422.6, the idea is to protect every citizen from being subjected to any crime due to prejudice. Should you violate this section of the law, you may receive a misdemeanor offense which can lead to: 

  • up to one year in county jail;
  • a fine as high as $50,000;
  • Community service for 400 hours. 

These are the lightest penalties that one can receive for a hate crime, and that’s where Penal Code 422.7 comes into play. As per this statute of California Law, hate crimes are defined as wobbler offenses, which means that the prosecutor can choose to classify them as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the crime and other surrounding details of the case. 

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, that can lead to one year in county jail. Additionally, if the crime gets classified as a felony, you may get imprisoned in state prison for a period of up to three years. 

What Can You Do if You Get Falsely Accused? 

When it comes to dealing with various hate crime allegations, there are three main defenses that may be an option, and according to our experience, give the best results when challenged in court. They are as follows: 

  • You didn’t commit a crime
  • You were not motivated by any personal characteristic
  • You were exercising your given right to free speech (first amendment) 
You Did Not Commit a Crime

In order for one to be charged with a hate crime, you need to first commit an unlawful act, and then the prosecution needs to prove that you did it because you were motivated by some personal characteristics of the victim. 

That’s why you can always argue that even though you may hold some biases regarding a particular person, you never committed any crime, and so, you cannot be charged for committing a hate crime. 

You Were Not Motivated by Any Bias 

In this scenario, you can argue that while you did commit a crime, you didn’t do it because you hold any bias toward the victim. Here, it’s important to note that this will assist in avoiding a “hate crime” charge, but will not influence the underlying crime committed. 

The First Amendment 

The First Amendment of the United States gives you the right to free speech. You can use this to argue in court that you only referred to the person’s characteristics while exercising your right to free speech and that you didn’t commit any other crime in the process. 

As always, if you get a false accusation or anyone close to you gets one, the right choice is to contact a lawyer immediately, as they will help you navigate the process quickly, and they’re your best bet at getting a favorable outcome in court. 

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.

H Law Group Online

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