Hate crimes are essentially crimes that occur out of some kind of internal bias harbored by the defendant. In the state of Florida and many other localities, a hate crime applies to instances where a crime was spurred on by a prejudice toward race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. When a crime is committed, the prosecutors may ask to delve into the intent and reasoning behind the crime. If it is determined to be a hate crime, then the penalties can be more severe for the convicted party. In the state of Florida, it’s up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant was motivated by something more than the actual crime involved.
Delineating between Crimes and Hate Crimes
For a hate crime to take place, there must first be a criminal charge levied against a person. That is to say, for a hate crime to be proven, it must be proven after the fact. It is rare for anyone to be charged with a hate crime for a particular offense. For instance, if a person in Washington County commits assault and battery on another person, then they will likely be charged with assault and battery. If the prosecution believes that the person was motivated by any of the prejudices listed above, then they must prove that to the judge and jury. Obviously a Washington County criminal defense lawyer must prove that the defendant was not motivated by any prejudice.
Of course, in cases like these, it can be difficult to understand what the motivations were behind the crime. In many instances, the prosecutors will have difficulty proving that the crime in question was motivated by prejudice unless the defendant actually used slurs or other words to indicate their hatred. Prosecutors can also use other means like the defendant’s criminal history, their online portfolio, and their interactions with individuals before committing the crime.
Why Hate Crimes are Prosecuted Harsher
Many people have expressed confusion as to the rationale behind harsher penalties for hate crimes. For instance, if someone commits murder out of revenge and someone commits it specifically from a place of prejudice, isn’t the basic crime still murder? The answer to that question is something that has had legal scholars debating endlessly about the merits of hate crime legislation. But, the basic idea behind prosecuting hate crimes more harshly is that hate crimes tend to make large groups of people a target.
For instance, if a suspect burglarized a business because the business was owned by a person a particular ethnicity, then the burglar certainly shows a proclivity to do the same thing later on. A burglar who indiscriminately robs a business is likely doing so entirely for personal gain rather than for some misplaced vendetta. That’s essentially what the harsher penalty hinges on in these cases: a proclivity to commit a similar crime based on prejudice later on.
Still, there is a distinct gray area when it comes to something like this. But, hate crime laws are in place to protect the greater good of people throughout the state of Florida and the nation.