Prosecution of hate crimes also rising at steady pace
By Gilda Balan, Correspondent
The 2022 annual hate crime report for the State of California stated that in the last 10 years hate crime events have risen by 145.7 percent (see last week’s issue).
The prosecution of those crimes, however, does not follow the same trajectory. The data from the latest period shows why.
For better or for worse, the number of hate crimes referred for prosecution “increased 5.9 percent from 611 in 2021 to 647 in 2022, according to the report.
Of that 647 incidents referred for prosecution, 456 cases were filed by district attorneys and elected city attorneys for prosecution. And of this lesser number, 282 were filed as hate crimes while 174 were filed as “non-bias motivated crimes.” In other words, they were seemingly downgraded, possibly because hate crimes being federal in nature are harder to prove. This does not mean that no crime was committed, only that what seemed to be hate crimes are actually considered as ordinary crimes or misdemeanors, as the case may be.
Only 122 cases with a disposition were available for the report, and the results show that the wheels of justice are turning, albeit not always perfectly.
Of this number, 43.4 percent or 53 cases resulted in hate crime convictions; 45.9 percent or 56 cases were for other non-hate crime convictions; and 10.7 percent of 13 were not convicted.
There is a reason why DAs and city attorneys may hesitate to file some crimes as hate crimes, instead of ordinary ones. The percentage of complaints filed compared to actual convictions is considered low.
For the past 10-year period from 2013 to 2022, there was no dramatic increase in the number of cases filed. The number of convictions is, therefore, also proportionately low.
For the first year on record, or in 2013, there were 196 cases filed, resulting in 144 convictions. This means that more than half of the cases filed resulted in the accused being convicted.
Although there were fluctuations in the years that followed, specifically from 2014 to 2017, more than half of those charged were convicted. In ctproportion was 173 to 96, and in 2017 it was 195 charged with 113 convicted.
Then for the next five years starting in 2018, there was a sharp fall in the number of convictions compared to the number charged.
The year 2019 was especially bad with only 82 of the 200 charged being convicted, or a lowly 41 percent batting average.
There was little improvement in the years that followed, with only 95 convictions out of 219 charged in 2020, followed by 109 convicted out of 285 charged in 2021, then 109 convicted out of 282 charged last year.
It is worth noting that the conviction rate of less than 50 percent started just before the global coronavirus pandemic, and remained the same in the three years that followed. It was in those three years when hate crimes, especially against Asians and Asian-Americans rose dramatically.
The report points out that “there is no direct relationship between ‘complaints filed’ and ‘convictions’ since a case may be filed in one year and the outcome (trial or pleading) may occur in another year.
The 2022 Hate Crime in California report also states that “it is not possible to relate the number of hate crimes reported by law enforcement agencies to the number of hate crimes prosecuted by district attorneys and city attorneys.”
First of all, crimes often occur in different reporting years than their subsequent prosecutions.
More importantly, the number of crimes reported by law enforcement “is much higher than those calling for prosecutorial action since the latter requires an arrested defendant who can be prosecuted in a court of law.”
In the end, minimizing if not outright eradicating hate crimes cannot be done overnight, as the problem is a complex one. For now, law enforcement remains the wall that separates the hatemongers from the innocent public whom they would victimize.
Progress against hate crimes may be slow, but it is better than no progress at all.