Under Florida sentencing guidelines, criminal defendants may face enhanced penalties and harsher punishments if the motivation for their misdeed is based on race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or religion. According to statistics, race continues to be the most common motivating factor in Florida hate crimes, followed closely by sexual orientation and religion.
At the Fowler Law Group, we can help if you are facing a possible sentence enhancement based on the state’s assertion that your alleged crime contained elements of prejudice and discrimination.
Many times, prosecutors may attempt to “pin” this type of crime on a defendant merely due to the fact the alleged victim belongs to one of the protected categories – regardless of whether this status actually played a role in the defendant’s decision to commit the act. In order to avoid the unnecessary imposition of a hate crime enhancement, call our Sarasota criminal defense attorneys right away.
Prosecutor Must Show Evidence of Hateful Motivation
According to recent statistics released by the Florida Attorney General’s Office, hate crime statistics in most Florida counties are on the decline. In fact, Florida law enforcement saw just 124 hate crime convictions in 2013, compared with over 300 just 10 years earlier.
While a number of factors may be at work to bring about this dramatic reduction in convictions, one dispositive issue remains constant in the minds of Florida’s prosecutors: proving intent.
Under the law, it is not enough that an alleged victim belongs to a protected group covered by the hate crime guidelines. By contrast, the state must put forth evidence to prove that, at the time of the incident, the defendant elicited some sort of behavior – including hate-based language, symbols or gestures – that would lead the reasonable person to conclude the defendant targeted the victim specifically based on his or her status as a protected individual.
If the prosecution cannot show that the defendant engaged in this sort of behavior during the alleged incident, a criminal defense attorney will likely be able to have this sentence enhancement eliminated from consideration.
Contact an Experienced Sarasota Defense Attorney Now!
Hate crime convictions are a necessary component to the Florida Penal Code and are designed to deter citizens from engaging in this sort of discriminatory behavior. However, a skillful defense attorney will be able to help his or her client avoid this sentence enhancement if unwarranted – particularly if there is no evidence of discriminatory misconduct at the time of the alleged crime.
For help with your recent criminal charges, or to speak with a knowledgeable and respected criminal defense attorney in Sarasota, we encourage you to contact the Fowler Law Group right away. To reach our Sarasota office, please call (941) 900-3100.