A Simi Valley arrest over the weekend highlights California hate crimes law as 2016 comes to a close. According to a CBS Local report, John Matteson was arrested for suspicion of a hate crime in Simi Valley, California.  Matteson was arrested in connection to a stabbing incident outside of a mosque on Erringer Road in the town most known for the Ronald Reagan Library.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s website lists Matteson’s age at 29 and bail at $25,000.00. He is charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor. “Code:PC Sec:422 Level:Felony Criminal Threats Code:PC Sec:422.7 Level:Felony Violation Of Civil Rights Code:PC Sec:415(1) Level:Misdemeanor Disturbing The Peace By Fighting.” 
California Penal Code Section 422.7 states:
“Except in the case of a person punished under Section 422.6, any hate crime that is not made punishable by imprisonment in the state prison shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine, if the crime is committed against the person or property of another for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with that other person’s free exercise or enjoyment of any right secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States under any of the following circumstances, which shall be charged in the accusatory pleading:
(a) The crime against the person of another either includes the present ability to commit a violent injury or causes actual physical injury.
(b) The crime against property causes damage in excess of nine hundred fifty dollars ($950).
(c) The person charged with a crime under this section has been convicted previously of a violation of subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 422.6, or has been convicted previously of a conspiracy to commit a crime described in subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 422.6.” 
If, as initial reports allege, this crime was motivated by hate, then it may be subject to California Penal Code Section 422.6, which states in section (a) that, ”No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States in whole or in part because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed in subdivision (a) of Section 422.55.” (Section 422.55 explained below.) 
Simi Valley is a town with a historically low crime rate, which is why this case is raising community eyebrows. “The crime rate in Simi Valley, CA is 57% lower than the average of the whole of the state of California, and when compared with the national average, is 54% lower than. When looking at violent crimes, Simi Valley, CA has 68% lower than violent crime rate than California average, while remaining 63% lower than the national average. In property crime, Simi Valley, CA is 55% lower than the average of California and is 52% lower than the national average.” 
Contrary to public perception, according to Pew Research Center, crime rates overall are down. “Between 2008 and 2015 (the most recent year for which data are available), U.S. violent crime and property crime rates fell 19% and 23%, respectively, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which tallies serious crimes reported to police in more than 18,000 jurisdictions around the nation.” 
But what does this mean for hate crimes? Where do they rank? Hate crimes seem to vacillate from year to year with no large swing up or down when you look at FBI reports for 2015, 2014, and 2013.
The FBI tallies hate crimes year by year and the federal agency reports that in 2015, “14,997 law enforcement agencies participated in the Hate Crime Statistics Program. Of these agencies, 1,742 reported 5,850 hate crime incidents involving 6,885 offenses.” 
“In 2014, 15,494 law enforcement agencies participated in the Hate Crime Statistics Program. Of these agencies, 1,666 reported 5,479 hate crime incidents involving 6,418 offenses.” 
“The UCR Program’s Hate Crime Statistics Program included 15,016 participating law enforcement agencies in 2013. These agencies provided 1 to 12 months of data about bias-motivated crime, and of those agencies, 1,826 (12.2 percent) reported 5,928 incidents.” 
California Hate Crime Law
The legal definition of hate crime as defined by California Penal Code Section 422.55 is as follows:
“‘Hate crime’ means a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim:
(4) Race or ethnicity.
(6) Sexual orientation.
(7) Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.
(b) “Hate crime” includes, but is not limited to, a violation of Section 422.6.” 
Enhanced Sentencing for Hate Crimes
In the state of California, “Hate Crime” law is governed by the 2016 California Rules of Court, Rule 4.427, which is “intended to assist judges in sentencing in felony hate crime cases.”  The rule is applicable to the following per Courts.Ca.Gov:
“(1)Felony sentencing under section 422.7;
(2)Convictions of felonies with a hate crime enhancement under section 422.75; and
(3)Convictions of felonies that qualify as hate crimes under section 422.55.” 
The rule states, “If one of the three factors listed in section 422.7 is pled and proved, a misdemeanor conviction that constitutes a hate crime under section 422.55 may be sentenced as a felony.” 
In addition, “If a hate crime enhancement is pled and proved, the punishment for a felony conviction must be enhanced under section 422.75 unless the conviction is sentenced as a felony under section 422.7.” 
1. Staff. December 12, 2016. CBS Local News. “Man Arrested On Suspicion Of Committing Hate Crime In Simi Valley.” Retrieved via http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2016/12/12/simi-valley-hate-crime-arrested/
2. John Gramlich. November 16, 2016. Pew Research Center. “Voters’ perceptions of crime continue to conflict with reality.” Retrieved via http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/16/voters-perceptions-of-crime-continue-to-conflict-with-reality/.
3. FBI. Hate Crime Statistics. 2015. “Incidents and Offenses.” Retrieved via https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2015/topic-pages/incidentsandoffenses_final.
4. December 12, 2016. AreaVibes.com. “Simi Valley CA Crime.” Retrieved via http://www.areavibes.com/simi+valley-ca/crime/.
5. FBI. Hate Crime Statistics. 2014. “Incidents and Offenses.” Retrieved via https://ucr.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2014/topic-pages/incidentsandoffenses_final
6. FBI. Hate Crime Statistics. 2013. “Hate Crime Jurisdiction Final.” Retrieved via https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2013/topic-pages/jurisdiction/jurisdiction_final.
7. The State of California. “2016 California Rules of Court. Rule 4.427. Hate crimes.” Retrieved via http://www.courts.ca.gov/cms/rules/index.cfm?title=four&linkid=rule4_427.
8. Findlaw.com. Retrieved on December 12, 2016 via http://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-422-55.html.
9. Findlaw.com Retrieved on December 12, 2016 via http://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-422-6.html.
10. Ventura County Sheriffs Website. Retrieved on December 12, 2016 via http://www.vcsd.org/pr-inmate-detail.php?booking_nbr=2001255.
11. Findlaw.com Retrieved on December 12, 2016 via http://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-422-7.html.
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