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Florida Bill Would Expand Definition of "Hate Crime"

A bill currently making its way through the Florida Legislature would expand the definition of a “hate crime” to include crimes committed against a person if the victim was employed in a certain capacity. The bill, which was the brainchild of Rep. Elizabeth Porter, would make it a hate crime if a criminal act was carried out against a judge, correctional officer, probation officer, or a first responder and the defendant was inspired to carry out the crime because the victim worked in one of these occupations. Florida already defines a hate crime as a criminal act carried out against a person because of the person’s race, religion, sexual orientation and/or disability (amongst other factors).

Rep. Porter’s bill continues to work its way through committees. There is no comparable bill in the Florida State Senate at this time.

Why This Bill May Go Too Far

When it is shown that a criminal act committed against a person in Florida is carried out because of one or more protected characteristics of the victim, Florida allows for the finding that a “hate crime” has been committed and allows for the imposition of enhanced penalties. If passed, Rep. Porter’s bill may take Florida’s hate crime statute too far. Whereas some protected characteristics we ourselves have are immutable – our race or ethnicity, for example – and others are intimately personal and crucial to our identity – our religion or sexual orientation – there is no such close connection between who we are and the occupation we hold. While no one condones violence against a judicial officer or member of law enforcement, most who enter these professions know that the threat of violence or retaliation is (unfortunately) part of their job.

If Rep. Porter’s bill is enacted into law, it is conceivable that Florida’s hate crime statute could be expanded even further to include factors such as other types of occupations (could you imagine a “hate crime” being committed because the victim is a teller at a bank or a hair stylist?), the neighborhood in which one lives, the car which one drives, or whether one prefers beef or chicken at a restaurant.

Experienced South Florida Criminal Defense for Those Charged with Hate Crimes

While the above examples may seem a bit ludicrous, being charged with a hate crime in today’s culture is no laughing matter. Hate crimes have gained increased attention in recent years and are now more likely than ever to be aggressively investigated and prosecuted. Even where a particular community is outraged and clamoring for the application of the hate crime statute in a particular case, a defendant is still entitled to have his or her the issues in his or her case proven beyond a reasonable doubt – including whether the crime itself qualifies as a hate crime.

If you are facing criminal charges in South Florida, call the knowledgeable and resourceful criminal defense attorneys at Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. today. We will thoroughly investigate your case and help you mount a well-prepared defense to your charges. Call us at (305) 670-9919 or contact us online today.

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