Hate Crimes in California: Elements That Increase Their Likelihood of Prosecution

Laurie Woods, Vanderbilt University

In the year 2001 California law enforcement agencies reported 2,261 hate crime "events" to the state's Department of Justice (DOJ). Investigators referred 481 cases to local district and city attorneys for prosecution, of which 314 were prosecuted under California hate crime statutes. This study looks at variables that may increase the likelihood that hate crime cases are prosecuted, such as victim's race, ethnicity, sexual orientation -- versus that of the perpetrator, and common elements that prosecuted cases may have. In addition, I look at the subjective decisions made by investigators and prosecutors with regard to the cases they pursue and ultimately select for prosecution under the added burden of proof that hate crime law demands. Using California DOJ data, along with interviews with investigators and prosecutors, I identify some common elements of hate crimes that increase the likelihood of their eventual acceptance into the criminal justice system.

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Updated 05/20/2006