California has its own civil statutes that protects persons from hate crimes. The statute is set forth in what is known as The Ralph Act which is codified at California Civil Code sections 51.7 and 52. These sections enable both the government and individuals to commence civil rights actions against perpetrators of hate crimes. Section 51.7 provides that every person has the right to be free from violence or threats of violence against them or their property, because of a person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability or position in a labor dispute or because a person is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics. The section covers a wide range of discrimination. Importantly, it protects no only violence but threats of violence. It also protects and individual even if the perpetrator is wrong about their characteristics. For example, if a person is Roman Catholic and perpetrator believes them to be Jewish and threatens them because he or she thinks they are Jewish, they are subject to liability under section 51.7 even though they are not Jewish. Section 51.7 provides up to a $25,000 civil penalty in addition to three times actual damages and punitive damages.
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Section 52 protects against interference with any state or federal statutory or constitutional right by threats, intimidation or coercion. The rights protected include the right of association, assembly, due process, education, employment, equal protection, expression, formation and enforcement of contracts, holding public office, housing, privacy, speech and travel. This cause of action can be brought by any attorney general, district attorney or private attorney.
If you have been the subject of a hate crime, you have rights against the person that perpetrated the crime. Contact an attorney at Gateway Law for a free consultation.