Hate crimes generally refer to crimes motivated by prejudice or bias. In Florida, a hate crime is any criminal offense committed against a victim based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, and/or other characteristics specified under the law. Hate crimes are punished more severely under Florida law, and defending against the allegations may be crucial to avoid harsh penalties. If you have been accused of a hate crime, a qualified St. Petersburg hate crime lawyer can assist you in fighting the charges. At Blake & Dorsten, P.A., our hardworking defense attorneys have the experience to help individuals who are under investigation or arrest for these crimes.Florida Hate Crimes
People in the United States have a right to freely hold and express unpopular, even intolerant, opinions. It is only when a person acts on such an opinion to the injury of another that the Florida hate crime laws may apply. In Florida, a hate crime occurs when the commission of any crime evidences prejudice based on the race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, mental or physical disability, or advanced age of the victim. Any criminal offense may qualify as a hate crime if it is motivated by illegal prejudice. Battery, robbery, assault, rape, vandalism, and harassment are some offenses commonly charged in hate crime cases. However, a hate crime does not require violence or physical injury to the victim, as the hate crime lawyers at our St. Petersburg firm have seen.
To get a conviction in a hate crime case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the underlying crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition, the prosecution must prove that the defendant perceived, knew, or had reasonable ground to perceive or know the race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, mental or physical disability, or advanced age of the victim, and that the defendant intentionally selected the victim because of that perception or knowledge.
We can assist in determining potential defenses to a hate crime charge. Successfully defending against the underlying crime will defeat a hate crime charge as well. Mistaken identity, insufficient evidence, and self-defense are a few defenses that may apply, depending on the specific charges and the facts of the case. The defense may also contest the hate crime element by showing that bias against the victim was not the motivation for the underlying crime. It is important to note that merely exhibiting prejudice during the commission of a crime is not sufficient to constitute a hate crime. Rather, the crime itself must be motivated by unlawful prejudice. Our St. Petersburg hate crime attorneys may be able to show that a defendant was not motivated by prejudice.Penalties for Hate Crimes
The sentencing ranges and penalties for a criminal conviction will depend on several factors. In general, the penalties may include incarceration, fine, probation, parole, community service, and other consequences. When a crime is motivated by prejudice, however, the potential penalties will be more severe. This is due to the fact that, under Florida law, a hate crime is reclassified as one level higher. For example, while a simple battery is a first degree misdemeanor, a battery motivated by prejudice against the victim is third degree felony. By charging the higher offense, prosecutors can seek harsher penalties for a conviction, such as a longer prison sentence or a larger fine. Moreover, a hate crime charge typically is brought in conjunction with the underlying offense, which may result in additional penalties for a conviction.Seek Representation in St. Petersburg If You Are Accused of a Hate Crime
Obtaining the support and representation of an experienced defense attorney may make a difference in a hate crimes case. At Blake & Dorsten, P.A., we can provide legal advice to people facing serious criminal charges such as sexual assault and sexual battery. We handle felony and misdemeanor cases throughout Pinellas County, including Tampa Bay and Clearwater. To arrange a free consultation with a skilled hate crime attorney in St. Petersburg, call Blake & Dorsten at 727-286-6141 or contact us online.