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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

What is the Bane Act in California? – Learning More

In California, there are several civil rights statutes, including the Bane Act. Although often untapped, it's a remedy that allows people to bring legal action against someone who uses violence, intimidation, threats, or coercion to interfere with federal or state rights.

Also known as the Tom Bane Act, it extends beyond the typical cases involving police misconduct and authorizes lawsuits against parties who interfere with the rights that federal constitutions or laws have secured for people.

If successful, those who take legal action against another person for this tortious conduct can recover compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, and more.

What is the Bane Act?

What is the Bane Act?

The Bane Act is a law that allows people to file a lawsuit for damages against someone who has interfered with their constitutional or statutory rights through threats, intimidation, violence, or coercion.

Victims can file a lawsuit under the Bane Act, also known as California Civil Code § 52.1, even if they don't belong to a protected class.

Rights that the Bane Act Protects

These are the rights that the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act may apply to:

  • Association

  • Voting

  • Education

  • Employment

  • Speech

  • Expression

  • Privacy

  • Housing

  • Assembly

  • Due process

  • Equal protection

  • Holding of public office

  • Formation

  • Use of public facilities

  • Enforcement of contracts

  • Travel

  • Worship

  • Protection against defamation, injury to personal relationships, personal insult, bodily restraint, or harm

However, speech alone isn't sufficient to support a Bane Act claim unless it threatens violence. Furthermore, it only applies if the people against whom the threat is directed reasonably fear that the other party will commit violence against them and believe that the person threatening violence will carry out that act.

Bane Act cases are often related to section 1983 and Monell lawsuits in federal court. However, the reach of this law goes far beyond claims involving police misconduct.

As described in Section 52.1, this statute applies not only to cases where a constitutional right is at issue but to the following:

  • Rights secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States

  • Rights secured by the Constitution or the laws of this state (California)

Moreover, the California Supreme Court found that the phrase "laws of this state" refers to both statutory rights and any rights secured by common law.

Who Can Be Found Liable for Bane Act Violations?

A Bane Act claim is supported by the fact that the defendant tried or prevented the plaintiff from doing something that they had a legal right to do or forced them to do something that they weren't required under the law to do. Furthermore, the at-fault party commits this act by improper means, which can be:

  • Violence

  • Threats of violence

  • Bullying

  • Coercion

However, Section 52.1 also explains that victims don't need to prove actual interference with their legal rights to file a claim against the other party. Since this isn't a requirement, even attempted interference may be sufficient to support a claim under the Bane Act.

Who Can Bring Legal Action Under the Bane Act?

Any person whose rights have been interfered with through the use of violence, threats, intimidation, or coercion is entitled to bring legal action. If victims' associates were also subjected to this intentional tortious conduct, they also have standing to sue private or public actors for Bane Act violations.

What Can Victims Recover In a Case Involving Bane Act Violations?

If there's a violation of the Tom Bane Act, this law can provide for the following:

  • Statutory damages, including civil penalties for the defendant or the party who violated the Bane Act (the civil penalty can be up to $25,000)

  • Civil remedies for those who are considered victims of "hate crime violence"

  • Three times actual damages as long as they aren't less than $1,000

  • Restraining orders

  • Injunctive relief or other appropriate equitable relief, punishable by criminal contempt action with penalties of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail, in order to ensure the peaceful exercise or enjoyment of the legal rights of the plaintiff

  • Reasonable attorney's fees

It's important to know that plaintiffs aren't required to prove that the defendant had discriminatory intentions. Liability can be established by demonstrating that there was actual or attempted interference with claimants' legal rights by improper means.

Temporary Restraining Orders and Permanent Injunctions

Hate crime victims may request a court order to prohibit additional harassment and prevent the defendant from contacting them if criminal charges have been filed under the Bane Act.

Restraining orders must be enforced immediately by local law enforcement agencies.

In addition, the plaintiff or their criminal attorneys in Sacramento CA must deliver two copies of this order, modification, extension, or termination thereof granted pursuant to Section 52.1 to the local law enforcement agency by the close of the business day it was granted. A copy must be served to the defendant.

According to Section 52.1, the appropriate law enforcement agency is the one that has jurisdiction over the victims' residence or any location where the court determines that the act of violence may occur.

If there's a report of violence, this agency has the duty to provide information about the restraining order, its status, and its terms to the law enforcement officer responding to the scene.

Additionally, the order must include a statement saying that any violation of the restraining order is considered a crime that may be penalized under the Penal Code's Section 422.77.

What Can an Experienced Attorney Do for a Person Accused of a Bane Act Violation?

What Can an Experienced Attorney Do for a Person Accused of a Bane Act Violation?

Anyone who is a victim of a hate crime in California can bring legal action against the other party to hold them accountable for their behavior, pursue compensation, and request a restraining order if necessary.

However, that doesn't mean that defendants should go to jail. To bring a successful claim under the Bane Act claim before a superior court, plaintiffs must prove the following:

  • The defendant intentionally interfered or attempted to interfere with their legal rights by using improper means, such as violence, intimidation, and threats

  • The plaintiff was harmed

  • The defendant's conduct caused or substantially contributed to the plaintiff's harm

If plaintiffs cannot prove those elements, defendants can defend their cases and avoid going to prison. Therefore, those facing legal action for an alleged Bane Act violation should contact an attorney as soon as possible. They can also help with questions like Is it illegal to flip someone off in California?

Contact Goss Law Today!

Anyone arrested on suspicion of a Bane Act violation has the right to contact an attorney. At Goss Law, we're willing to help them build a solid defense to reduce their charges and avoid prison sentences. Contact us today!


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