Three San Jose State University students have been charged with hate crimes for harassing their former roommate, a black student at the university. The students allegedly posted a Confederate flag in their room, used racial slurs, and placed a bicycle lock around his neck. In addition to the criminal charges pressed against the students, all three have been suspended from the school. The three men were charged with battery and misdemeanor hate crimes.
The incidents were reported by the alleged victim’s parents, who noticed the Confederate flag and racial slurs written on a white board. They made a report to the school, which reported the incident to the police. The accused told police that the incidents were intended to be only pranks.
Under the California Penal Code, it is a misdemeanor to “interfere by force or threat of force with a person’s state or federal statutory or constitutional rights because of his or her race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation or because the victim is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.” The law also criminalizes property damage that is motivated by race or any of the other factors listed above. Violation of either law can result in up to a one-year jail sentence, a $5,000 fine, or both, a jail sentence and a fine. In addition, a judge is required to sentence anyone convicted under that section to community service.
It is noteworthy to mention that crimes that would normally be classified as misdemeanors can be upgraded to felonies with sentences enhanced when the crimes involve a bias motive. Being accused of a crime is challenging enough, but if prosecutors add a hate crime charge, you can expect to face a longer prison sentence.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, you need the counsel of a competent Riverside, California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. Prosecutors and police may add charges, making your situation even more serious. Don’t face a criminal charge without an experienced criminal attorney on your side.