Florida Hate Crimes Defense
In the wake of the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, the public discussion has recently focused on topics such as hate and racism. In these discussions, Florida has little reason to be praised. The state has the second-highest number of active hate groups in the United States within its borders. (California has the most active hate groups with 57; Florida has 50). These hate groups include chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, Nation of Islam, and New Black Panther Party.
What Exactly is a “Hate Crime?”
While various individuals may have differing opinions of what constitutes a “hate crime,” in Florida the term has a very specific definition. A hate crime is any criminal act committed against or attempted to be committed against another person or another’s property and motivated by hatred toward the person based on race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, mental or physical disability, or the victim’s old age.
If a criminal act is determined to fit the definition of a “hate crime,” then the underlying criminal act becomes reclassified and is punished more severely. Law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys’ offices treat suspected hate crimes very seriously.
What Evidence Will Be Used Against Me?
To a certain extent, prosecuting a person for a hate crime involves trying to delve into the mind of the perpetrator and determine his or her motivations. This is difficult, but police agencies and prosecutors will try to use the following to establish that a criminal act occurred because of hate:
- Statements made by the perpetrator before, during, or after the crime;
- The use of symbols associated with hate groups;
- The perpetrator’s membership in hate groups; and
- The circumstances of the crime
But the Crime I Committed Was NOT Motivated by Hate or Bias!
It is important that you take a hate crime accusation as seriously as the prosecuting attorney and law enforcement are taking it. Defending yourself against a hate crime accusation is no small task and requires the skill and assistance of an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney. There may be several avenues through which you can defend yourself, including the following:
- Testifying in your own defense that the crime was not racially motivated;
- Testimony from friends, family members, and others who know you that establishes you do not participate in extremist or hateful groups or activities; and
- Evidence that distances yourself from hateful comments or activities (such as objective evidence showing you have not participated in a particular hate group for many years or evidence that at the time racist or hateful posts appeared on your social media pages that your account(s) had been hacked).
South Florida criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner has been helping criminal defendants charged with serious crimes for years. When you are charged with a hate crime, he will identify information that will likely be used against you and will work with you to formulate an effective trial strategy to counter this information. Contact his offices at (305) 670-9919 for a free initial consultation.