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California Introduces Hate Crime Bill to Include Homelessness

April 30, 2019

A new measure would add homelessness to the Ralph Civil Rights Act

California Introduces Hate Crime Bill to Include Homelessness

Although homeless people make up just a fraction of the population of Los Angeles — less than 1% — they represented 16% of the total homicide victims in 2018. These numbers demonstrate just how dangerous it is to be homeless in California.

A number of recent killings where a homeless person was killed with extreme brutality in California has inspired lawmakers to weigh new legal protections for homeless Californians. According to a criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA, a proposed law would require prosecutors to charge acts of violence against the homeless as hate crimes.

Assembly Bill 1422 was introduced by Mike Gipson, a Democrat from Carson. He stated that because the homeless are some of California’s most vulnerable citizens, it only makes sense to add them to the state’s civil rights act. Gipson’s godson is homeless, which makes the issue personal for him.

A.B. 1422 would add homelessness to the Ralph Civil Rights Act, which would not only make crimes against the homeless subject to hate crime prosecution, but would grant the homeless civil protection from discrimination. While both bills passed through the Legislature, both Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown vetoed the measures. These bills were opposed by both district attorney and public defender groups, who stated that while they are sympathetic to the plight of the homeless, being homeless is a transitional status, as compared to other characteristics covered by the Act, such as race.

If the bill becomes law, it would enable prosecutors to request an enhanced sentence because it is considered a hate crime. Under California law, if you commit a crime such as assault or vandalism, and were motivated in part by the fact that the victim has one of the characteristics of a protected class, the offense is considered a hate crime. Under current law, if a person threatens, harasses, or harms another because of that person’s disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, it could lead to hate crime charges.

For misdemeanor crimes with a hate crime enhancement, the offense can then be charged as a felony. The punishment can then be as high as 16 months to 3 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000. For a felony crime with a hate crime enhancement, the judge may sentence you to an additional 4 years in prison.

As a criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA can explain, if homelessness were added to the list of protected characteristics under California law, then people charged with crime could face significantly expanded penalties for crimes. In many cases, the crimes may not have been targeted the homeless specifically — but a law would give a prosecutor discretion to charge the case in that manner. For this reason, most criminal defense attorneys oppose this bill.

If you have been charged with a crime, the Chambers Law Firm can help. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA.

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