What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Others from Hate Crimes

A person holding up a hand with the word "enough" written on itThe California Department of Justice has tools and resources available 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.

The California Attorney General offers the following information on how to identify and report hate crimes and the services available to victims of hate crimes. 

Hate crime or hate incident?

It is important to know the difference between a hate crime and a hate incident. 

A hate crime is a crime against a person, group, or property motivated by the victim’s real or perceived protected social group. Hate crimes can be prosecuted either as misdemeanors or as felonies, depending on the acts committed.

In California, you can be a victim of a hate crime if you have been targeted because of your actual or perceived: 

  • Race or ethnicity
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Physical or mental disability, or
  • Association with a person or group with one or more of these “actual” or “perceived” characteristics. 

Please note, the above listed characteristics are examples, and other bases for actual or perceived protected social group characteristics exist.

If you witness a hate crime, you should report the crime to your local law enforcement agency. 

A hate incident is an action or behavior motivated by hate but legally protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression. If a hate incident starts to threaten a person or property, it may become a hate crime. 

Examples of hate incidents include:

  • Name-calling
  • Insults
  • Displaying hate materials on your own property.
  • Posting hate material that does not result in property damage.
  • Distribution of materials with hate messages in public places. 

How to spot a hate crime 

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 

Click here for more information for victims of hate crimes, including what your rights are, what you can do, and where you can find help.