Defending a Hate Crime Charge
Many people do not understand the serious implications of a hate crime. It is a term you hear in the news to describe crimes against specific groups of people, but did you know that a conviction can result in stiffer conviction penalties than those already set by the legislature. Florida lawmakers recently added a new classification to its list of hate crimes. According to reports, a new law went into effect on October 1st that increases the penalties for crimes that prey on homeless people. The legislation was passed in response to reports of increased violent crimes against this population.
The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that the homeless population experienced a 23% increase in violent attacks throughout 2013. In 2011, a Florida homeless man was found burned under a bridge. In a 2013 Pensacola incident, another man was attacked and stabbed right outside of a local church. While the hate crime law was implemented to prevent these types of heinous incidents, it can also lead to unfair and unjustified penalties for a defendant.
What is a Hate Crime
Hate crimes are usually violent in nature. They are labeled as such because the offender chooses the victim based on prejudice or bigotry. Not every victim meets hate crime status under the statute. States have identified specific groups under their individual hate crime laws. In the state of Florida, it is against the law to commit a crime against someone based on their inclusion in the following groups:
- National Origin;
- Sexual Orientation; and
When a violent crime is committed against someone based on their membership in one of these groups, the state has the option of prosecuting the offense as a hate crime, which results in an enhancement of the underlying charge. For example, if the alleged criminal offense is third degree assault, the hate crime classification rises the crime to a second degree assault. This means that penalty for the offense can be significantly increased because of its classification as a hate crime.
Defending a Hate Crime
The possibility of higher penalties makes defending a hate crime extremely important. In order to successfully prosecute, the state must not only prove the elements of the crime, but also the intention behind the alleged actions of the defendant. The evidence must show that the defendant specifically chose the victim because of their religion, sexual orientation or some other classified grouping. A capable defense lawyer can present your case in a way that not only casts doubt on the underlying charge, but the hate crime defense as well. However, even if you did commit the offense, if your underlying reason was money or retaliation for example, the elements are not there for a hate crime conviction.
If you or a loved one are facing hate crime charges, Miami criminal lawyers Mycki Ratzan and Jude Faccidomo can provide you with an aggressive and comprehensive defense. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation.