Your Right to Freedom from Violence
What California laws protect that right?
It is against the law in California for anyone to threaten or commit acts of violence against you because of the kind of person you are, or the kinds of persons with whom you associate. The Ralph Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code Section 51.7) forbids acts of violence or threats of violence because of your race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, political party, or your part in a labor dispute.
The Bane Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code Section 51.2) forbids anyone to interfere by force or by threat of violence with your constitutional or statutory rights.
The acts forbidden by these civil laws may also be criminal acts, and can expose violators to criminal penalties. A list of related criminal statutes is listed further on in this informational item.
What kinds of acts are forbidden by law?
- Threats, verbal or written,
- Physical assault or attempted assault,
- Vandalism or property damage.
How do these laws help?
Penal Code sections punish persons who have violated the rights of others. Civil remedies provide protection for persons threatened with violence and provide money compensation to persons who have been harmed by violence or threats. These civil remedies are available even if criminal violations cannot be proven.
Civil remedies available under the Ralph and Bane acts include:
- Restraining Orders
- Once a restraining order is obtained from a court, persons upon whom it is served can be fined or jailed if they continue to threaten you or if they harm you or your property.
- Actual damages
- This includes the cost of medical treatment, lost wages, repairing property, or payment for emotional suffering and distress.
- Additional damages
- A court can order an additional payment of up to three times whatever actual damages can be proven.
- Civil penalties
- A court order fine of up to $10,000.
- Attorney fees
- A court may order that you be paid the attorney fees you owe for suing the person who violated your rights.
How can you use these laws?
- Download this information. Show it to attorneys or police or government agencies when you contact them about your problem.
- Report any threat or violent act to the police. Tell them why you believe that a threat or actual violence happened because of the kind of person you are (for example, because of your race, sex, age, disability, or sexual orientation), or because of the people you associate with ( for example, because of your political party or church membership). For example, you may feel that you were attacked because of your race if the attacker called you racist names; you may believe that a swastika was painted on your house because you are Jewish.
- If you don't know who threatened or hurt you or damaged your property, and local law enforcement won't investigate, contact the California Attorney General. In some instances, the Attorney General's office will investigate if local police won't. To contact the California Attorney General call 800-952-5225 or, if you are hearing impaired and using a TDD device, call 800-952-5548.
- If you know who threatened or hurt you or damaged your property, you can sue in court, or there are a number of government agencies that can help you. You can sue under California Civil Code Section 52 to enforce the Ralph Civil Rights Act. If you win, you may be given actual damages, and you may be given your lawyer's fees. The court can also give you a restraining order, and may order additional damages. The court can also fine the person you are suing up to $10,000. You must sue within two years of the event about which you are complaining.
- You can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. You will not need an attorney, and there is no fee for the Department's services. If your case can be proven, you may be entitled to actual damages, including payment of out-of-pocket expenses and for emotional injuries. The Department can also ask a court for a restraining order.
- A complaint must be filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one year of the events about which you are complaining.
- You may get help from your local District Attorney, or local city attorney or from the California Attorney General. Any of these officials can ask a court for a restraining order against the person who threatened you or who hurt you or damaged your property. They can also file a lawsuit to prevent interference with your statutory or constitutional rights.
- Telephone numbers for either local District Attorneys or local city attorneys can be found in the government section of your telephone book. The Attorney General's telephone number is 800-952-5225, or if you are hearing impaired and use a TDD, 800-952-5548.
What criminal laws are broken by violence or threats of violence?
The following is a list of laws in the California Penal Code. A local District Attorney or the California Attorney General can prosecute people who break these laws:
- PC Section 190.2(a)(16): Provides a death penalty for murder because of the victims' race, color, religion, nationality, or nation origin.
- PC Section 258: Establishes a misdemeanor to maliciously slander, among others, "any social fraternal...religious corporation, association or organization."
- PC Section 302: Establishes as a misdemeanor to willfully disturb a group of people met to worship.
- PC Section 1170.75: Provides additional punishment for felonies committed because of a victim's race, color, religion, etc.
- PC Section 1170.8: Provides additional punishment for robbery or assault of persons within a place of worship.
- PC Section 1170.85: Provides additional punishment for felonies committed against the aged or disabled.
- PC Section 11410: States that the urging of violence where harm is possible is conduct not protected by the California Constitution.
- PC Section 11411: Provides as a misdemeanor to cause a person to fear for their safety by burning a cross or by displaying racist signs.
- PC Section 11412: Provides as a felony to attempt to discourage religious activities by threats of violence.
- PC Section 11413: Provides as a felony to use a bomb against or to set on fire a place of worship.
There is a Department of Fair Employment and Housing office in each of the cities listed below:
- Los Angeles
- 322 West First Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90012-3112
- San Diego
- 110 West "C" Street #1702
San Diego, CA 92010
- San Bernardino
- 375 W. Hospitality Lane #280
San Bernardino, Ca. 92408
- Santa Ana
- 28 Civic Center Plaza #538
Santa Ana, Ca. 92701
- TDD Number
- Los Angeles - (213) 620-3109
This information was prepared jointly by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Fair Employment and Housing Commission, and the Fullerton Police Department.
The Fullerton Police Department