A homeless San Francisco man (57) was fast asleep when his attackers began beating him with an aluminum baseball bat. Normally, this kind of occurrence would fall under the section of the California Penal Code that deals with assault. However, the victim claims that the man (a white male) who hurt him was yelling anti-Hispanic slurs.
Technically, the crime committed against this transient man was not ‘assault,’ it was ‘battery.’ California law makes a distinction between the 2 crimes: assault is the attempt to harm someone purposefully and with the use of violence or force while battery consists of actually accomplishing that harm (CA Penal Code 240 & 242). If serious injury is caused during a particular incident (CA Penal Code 243(d) – “Battery Causing Serious Injury”) then prosecutors must determine, according to the facts of the case, whether to treat the crime as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If it considered a misdemeanor, then the maximum penalty is 1 year in county jail. However, if it is considered a felony, then penalties can rise to up to 4 years in state prison.
More importantly, CA PC 422.5-422.75 add sentencing enhancements when discrimination has been a factor in the crime. For example, if the crime was motivated by ‘hate’ (meaning that the crime was motivated by discriminatory attitudes toward persons with disabilities, of a particular nationality, sexual orientation, or ‘race’ or ethnicity), then penalties skyrocket. Hate crimes are considered to ‘stand alone’ because of civil rights considerations (like the right to live one’s live without the threat of violence). CA PC 422.7 adds 1 year and a $10,000 fine to crimes motivated by hate, and makes what would be a misdemeanor a felony in some cases. If the crime committed is a felony (CA PC 422.75) provides for an extra year in state prison. In other terms, hate crime sentencing enhancements are meant to provide relief for the victims of bias-motivated crimes against protected classes of persons.