In Florida, many crimes have the potential to be considered as hate crimes. A hate crime is a crime based on prejudice or bias against an individual or group considered to be part of a protected class. These crimes are believed to carry enough influence to cause greater societal harm. As a result, Florida’s hate crime statute, Section §775.085, enables penalties to be enhanced when charging individuals or groups with hate crimes where there is evidence of prejudice or bias.
In Florida, the Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights has derived a hate crime training program targeted to law enforcement officers, detectives, and investigators. Police officers and other law enforcement officials throughout the state are required to report hate crimes to develop the annual hate crime report. If your alleged offense involved a member of a protected status, your case may be subject to harsher scrutiny by the prosecution.
Examples of hate crimes are vast as there are several protected classes: people of color, those with mental or physical disabilities, the elderly, members of the LGBTQ community, and those with minority religious beliefs may be considered protected under state and federal civil rights laws. Currently, reports show that in 2015, 55.9% of hate crimes in the state were race-based.
Criminal offenses can be elevated to hate crimes only if there is evidence that the defendant’s motivation was based on prejudice and hate. This has to be the defendant’s primary motivation. As an example, if you had a deal with another individual and it didn’t work out, and you reacted to the situation in a violent way, and during the ordeal you used racial slurs and hate speech toward the other person, who happened to be a member of a protected class, this scenario cannot constitute as a hate crime as it was driven by financial gain.
If, however, a defendant’s motivation for the crime was due to prejudice or bias against a person or group of persons due to their race or skin color; sexual orientation; religion; ethnicity, or national origin; mental or physical disabilities; homelessness; or advanced age (65 and up), the penalties of the offense, whether it was assault or vandalism, or another crime, can be elevated as the person can face hate crime charges.
Talk to an experienced hate crime attorney in West Palm Beach today to discuss your hate crime charges. Attorney Brian Gabriel has defended individuals facing criminal charges for over 30 years throughout Palm Beach County and surrounding areas. Call 561-622-5575 or contact us to set up your free legal consultation.