News of a San Luis Obispo High School teen's arrest earlier this month on a felony hate crime charge for the alleged bullying of another student may have provoked a question: What exactly is a hate crime?
After all, only three were reported in San Luis Obispo County — two in SLO city and one at Cal Poly — in 2016, the most recent year for which state data are available. None of those crimes were referred to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's office, according to the report.
According to California law, a crime against a victim — such as assault, burglary or vandalism — can be ruled a hate crime if it is determined that the crime was committed because of the victim's real or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
The alleged victim of this month's hate crime is autistic, according to San Luis Obispo police.
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California Penal Code section 422.7 says, "actions which are normally misdemeanors can become felonies if committed because of bigotry based on" those aforementioned categories.
The law also allows for the judge to sentence the offender "to complete a class or program on racial or ethnic sensitivity or other similar training in civil rights if such class or program is available as a condition of probation."
Offenders also can be ordered to compensate a community-based agency that provides services to victims of hate violence, "and to reimburse the victim for reasonable costs of counseling and other expenses" above and beyond any court-ordered restitution.
Statewide in 2016, the California Attorney General's Office recorded 928 hate crimes.
Of all the protected categories, hate crimes based on disability are the least reported; just two were related to disability.