About Hate Crimes Unit
“I have made the prosecution of hate crimes a centerpiece of my administration because of the devastation hate crimes cause to the individual victim as well as the entire community,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.
“We cannot change who we are and no one should be targeted and victimized because of who they are, how they look, or who they love. The beauty of Orange County is found in its diversity. Hate will not be tolerated here. By working to educate our communities, better training our law enforcement officers, and sending a strong message to haters that hate-motivated crimes will not be tolerated, we are preventing hate crimes from ever occurring and when they do occur we are standing up for victims and holding haters accountable.”
In May 2021, District Attorney Spitzer announced the creation of a Hate Crimes Unit, dedicated to prosecuting crimes in which the perpetrators acted based on a bias against the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.
The newly created unit is staffed by three prosecutors, two investigators, and is supervised by the head of Special Prosecutions.
Between January 2019 and June 2021, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has prosecuted more than twice the number of hate crimes that compared to the number of hate crimes prosecuted in the previous 25 years by prior administrations.
Hate crimes reached record numbers in Orange County from 2019 to 2020:
Recorded by the Orange County Human Relations Commission
In addition to prosecuting hate crimes, the Hate Crimes Unit will focus on increased community education as well as training for law enforcement on how to effectively investigate hate crimes so that those cases can be successfully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The Importance of Reporting Hate Crimes
Many victims of hate crimes are reluctant to report due to mistrust of law enforcement and language and cultural barriers. Community outreach and education is a critical component to ensuring those who commit hate-motivated crimes are held accountable as well as sending a strong message that hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
It is important to note that many victims of hate crimes belong to marginalized groups or have marginalized identities. These individuals may normalize hate crimes.
One reason that many crimes are not reported or prosecuted as hate crimes may be that the victim is not comfortable disclosing their protected characteristic to police. This may be a particular aspect of their identity that they have not disclosed to their family. However, in order to properly prosecute hate crimes, we need this information. Thus, it is important to be sensitive when asking these identity questions – assuring the victim they can be open and honest with you, emphasizing the importance of holding the suspect accountable for their true crime, preventing future victimization of people with the protected characteristic, and providing a safe and private surrounding for your interview.
motive based on bias against a protected characteristic
P.C. § 422.55(a)
“Hate crime” means a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim:
- Disability: Includes mental disability and physical disability
- Gender: Includes sex, gender identity, and gender expression
- Nationality: Includes citizenship, country of origin and national origin
- Race or Ethnicity: Includes ancestry, color, or ethnic background
- Religion: Includes all aspects of religious belief, observance, and practice; includes agnosticism and atheism
- Sexual Orientation: Includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality
- Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics: Includes advocacy for, identification with, or being on the ground owned or rented by, or adjacent to, group or person with protected characteristics
Hate Crime Charges & Enhancements
- P.C. § 422.6(a): Interference with Civil Rights by Force or Threat
- P.C. § 422.6(b): Interference with Civil Rights by Damaging Property
- P.C. § 422.7: Used to Enhance Misdemeanor to Felony Based on Bias-Motivation
- P.C. § 422.75: Enhancement for Any Felony w/ Bias Motivation
- P.C. § 594.3: Vandalism to Place of Worship or Cemetery
- P.C. § 11411: Terrorizing by Noose, Cross Burning, or Other Symbol
- P.C. § 11412: Threats Obstructing Exercise of Religion
The important question of whether a crime turns on the defendant's motivation, whether he correctly identified his victim or not. For example if an Islamophobic defendant attacked a Sikh in the mistaken belief he was Muslim, and committed that act because he percieved the victim to be Muslim, it is a hate crime even though the defendant was mistaken.
Potential Hate Crime Victims
- Religious institutions
- Community centers
- Outreach groups
- Public property