Florida Hate Crime Law
After Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down by Travis McMichael, McMichael and his cohorts in crime faced homicide charges. In this high-profile case, the guilty verdict in state court led to federal hate crime charges, where the three men were found guilty of engaging in the crime on the basis of Arbery’s race. What exactly are hate crimes, and how can their enhanced penalties impact sentencing?
Florida Hate Crime Legislation
According to Florida’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, any criminal activity that occurs against someone else as a way to express hatred based on a particular personal characteristic of the victim is considered a hate crime. Characteristics that are protected under Florida law include:
- Race/national origin/ethnicity;
- Gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation;
- Religious beliefs;
- Disability (mental or physical);
Federal Hate Crimes
Federal statute protects in the areas of race, ethnicity, color, sexual orientation, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. When federal charges are tacked on relating to hate crimes, a conviction can lead to years in federal prison. A life sentence is not uncommon with serious crimes such as attempted murder, murder, aggravated sexual abuse, or kidnapping.
Proving Hate Motivated the Crime
It can be difficult to prove that the crime was committed based on bias. The federal charges in the Arbery case are a case study in the ways in which prosecutors can rely on a defendant’s history to demonstrate bias. Testimony that reflected the regular use of racial slurs and derogatory remarks about Blacks, combined with a trove of text messages showing the same, were used to prove that the defendant’s bias toward Black people is what motivated their suspicions and ultimately their actions, leading to Arbery’s death.
Florida’s Recent History
Hate crimes in Florida are, unfortunately, all too common. The majority—over 5,000 in the past couple of years, were related to race or ethnicity. There were over 1,200 hate crimes in that same time period based on religion, and another 1,100 based on sexual orientation. Across all categories, more than 8,200 hate crimes targeted individuals across the Sunshine State. Those crimes included intimidation, aggravated assault and larceny, as well as incidents of property damage and vandalism.
Defending Hate Crime Charges
If you have been charged with a hate crime, you could be facing serious time behind bars in a state or federal prison. The dedicated Miami criminal attorneys at The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos will provide a constitutionally mandated defense with vigor. Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.