Since hate crimes have become more prevalent in recent years, Florida law enforcement agencies and courts take them very seriously. Unfortunately, the climate of today’s society can lead to hate crime accusations despite the lack of motivation.
According to state law, a hate crime is a criminal offense against a person based on his/her race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability, age, class, or political affiliation. Common examples of hateful incidents include verbal abuse (e.g. insults and offensive jokes), intimidation or bullying, harassment, threats of violence, hoax calls, online abuse, property damage, arson, and physical attacks (e.g. assault and murder).
Law enforcement investigators will typically look for the following types of evidence:
- Statements made by the alleged suspect
- Statements made when the alleged crime was committed
- If symbols associated with racism and prejudice are used (e.g. swastikas or “KKK”)
- The circumstances of the alleged crime
- The circumstances leading up to the alleged crime
- If the alleged suspect is affiliated with an extremist group
- If another motive exists besides bias and bigotry
If a person is convicted of a state crime, then the charges will be reclassified to harsher penalties. For example, a second-degree misdemeanor will be reclassified to a first-degree misdemeanor, a first-degree misdemeanor will be reclassified to a third-degree felony, and a first-degree felony will be reclassified to a life felony.
In addition, a conviction can also lead to a civil lawsuit filed by the plaintiff to recover monetary damages from the incident.
If you have been accused of committing a hate crime in Miami, contact Hager & Schwartz, P.A. today at (305) 330-1360 today. We are available 24/7 for our clients!