Crimes motivated by hate are not just attacks on individual innocent people – they are attacks on our communities and the entire State. It is the job of Attorney General Rob Bonta to see that the laws of the State are uniformly and adequately enforced.
The California Department of Justice (Department) has tools and resources to aid and assist local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities in the investigation of possible hate crimes, including the identification, arrest, prosecution, and conviction of the perpetrators of those crimes. If you wish to report a crime, please file a report with the local police or sheriff's department.
What Californians Need to Know to Protect Themselves and Others
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.
Signs that a crime was motivated by hate may include:
- The offender chose the victim or property because they belonged to a protected group, like a certain religion or gender.
- The offender made written or verbal comments showing a prejudice.
- The crime happened on a date that is important for the victim's or offender’s protected group.
- There is organized hate activity in the area.
- Contact the local law enforcement agency away.
- Get medical attention (if you need it).
- Write down the exact words that were said.
- Make notes about any other facts.
- Save all evidence (e.g., graffiti, eggshells, writing on victim's vehicle). If safe, wait until law enforcement arrives and takes photos.
- Get the names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails of other victims and witnesses.
- Try to get a description from any eyewitnesses of the criminal or the vehicle.
- Contact community organizations in your area that respond to hate crimes.
The California Victims' Bill of Rights Act, known as Marsy's Law, gives you these important legal rights:
- Get money for your losses. Apply for money to cover your property losses, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses.
- Say how the crime impacted you. Tell the court how the crime impacted your life before the defendant is sentenced.
- Get information about the criminal case. Ask the prosecutor for certain information about the case.
- Get orders from the court. The court can make orders that could help you, such as a protective order to keep the defendant away from you or an order to pay attorney fees if you hired a lawyer to help with your case.
The court may also order the defendant to pay you $25,000 or more for violating your civil rights. (Talk to a lawyer about your rights under the Ralph Act and the Bane Act.)
- California law prohibits law enforcement authorities from asking individuals, including those who are reporting or are victims of potential crimes, about their immigration status, unless the information is necessary to certify the victim for a U visa (victim of crime visa) or T visa (victim of human trafficking visa).
- Speak out against hate and intolerance.
- Have community rallies to support victims.
- Offer support and help to victims.
- Ask public officials to speak out against hate crimes.
- Establish a human relations commission or hate crime network that includes law enforcement, local government, schools, religious organizations and community organizations. Ask them to respond to hate crimes immediately when they happen and to promote prevention and awareness.
Every year, thousands of bias-motivated acts, commonly referred to as "hate crimes" or "hate incidents" are committed across America. Generally, any criminal act motivated by a specific bias against a victim's actual or perceived protected characteristic is a hate crime. A bias-motivated act that does not rise to the level of a crime is called a "hate incident." Hate crimes are prosecuted by city attorneys and district attorneys under California's penal code, while hate incidents can be the subject of civil lawsuits under California's civil code.
For more information please visit: https://oag.ca.gov/civil/preveduc
California Attorney General's
Victims' Services Unit
TTY: (800) 735-2929
California Department of Fair Employment and Housing
TTY: (800) 700-2320
California Association of Human Relations Organizations
California Victim Compensation Board
Find Your Local District Attorney's Office,
Victim/Witness Assistance Center
U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Services
For more information, or help with questions or concerns, contact:
California Attorney General's Office Victims' Services Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
The Attorney General issued an information bulletin to law enforcement agencies across California, outlining state laws that prohibit hate crimes and other hate-related acts.
The bulletin is designed to ensure that state and local law enforcement officials across California have the necessary information and tools to respond appropriately and swiftly to hate crime activity.
To view the latest bulletin visit: FINAL-BULLETIN-HATE-CRIMES-LAWS-IB-2021-DLE-05, pdf
The Attorney General issued guidance to prosecutors across California, providing information to assist prosecutors in carrying out their responsibilities.
The guidance is designed to ensure that prosecutors across California have the necessary information and tools to provide a full understanding regarding the handling of hate crime prosecutions, being mindful of the need for a victim-centered approach and restorative practices.
To view the guidance visit: Prosecutor Guidance, pdf
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) has developed guidance and a model policy framework to assist law enforcement in identifying and handling crimes motivated by hate and bias and to help ensure accurate and timely reporting of hate crimes.https://post.ca.gov/Portals/0/post_docs/publications/Hate_Crimes.pdf
Attorney General Bonta's Hate Crime Rapid Response Protocol
To ensure that local law enforcement officials have the resources they need to respond to major hate crime events, the Attorney General’s office has developed the Attorney General's Hate Crime Rapid Response Protocol. The protocol calls for the prioritization of resources to ensure that the California Department of Justice makes available to locals skilled law enforcement special agents, lawyers who are experts on handling civil rights issues, victim services professionals, and others, in order to provide a comprehensive response to major incidents.
The Attorney General's Hate Crime Rapid Response Protocol acts as a supplemental resource to local, state, and federal enforcement agencies' investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. The Protocol ensures local agencies have access to the full resources of the Department of Justice at their disposal. Attorney General Bonta believes that through a strong cooperative and team effort, state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies will be in the best position to quickly and effectively respond to major hate crime incidents anywhere in California.
View the protocols: Protocol for Deployment of Department of Justice Resources
Hate Crime Materials
The Attorney General has developed a hate crime brochure with information on how to identify and report hate crimes and services available to victims of hate crimes.
For convenience, the brochure is available in two formats and is available in the following languages:
In addition, the Attorney General has adapted the hate crime brochure to encourage local community groups and LEA’s to customize the hate crime brochure. Below is the template with editable fields to add an agency logo, contact information and any additional information that might be relevant for their respective community. Hate Crime Brochure Template
Hate Crimes Shareable Graphics
Below are shareable graphics with information on where to report hate crimes, definition of a hate crime and a hate incident and steps an individual can take if they are a victim of a hate crime.
The graphics are available in the following languages:
Annual Hate Crimes Report
The Attorney General publishes the Hate Crime in California Report annually assessing the number of hate crime events, hate crime offenses, hate crime victims, and hate crime suspects.
This report highlights hate crime trends, including the most common types of hate crimes broken down by protected class, as well as by city and county. The report puts these statistics in historical perspective by providing trend information on the number and types of hate crimes over the past ten years.
More information, including an analysis of the number and types of hate crimes over the past decade, can be found on the Attorney General's OpenJustice website.