139 hate crimes were reported throughout Florida in 2011, down seven percent from the previous year. However, the number of assaults increased. For the first time in seven years, attacks against individuals outnumbered attacks on property, with assaults making up 51.8 percent of reported hate crimes.
A hate crime, also known as a bias-motivated crime, is different from other violent crimes not based on how it is committed, but why it is committed. For example, two people who commit the exact same crime may face different penalties if one of them was motivated by a factor such as race, age or sexual orientation.
In addition, hate crime laws do not create new crimes but enhance penalties for criminal offenses that already exist. So both people in the example above may face assault charges, but one would be subject to a more severe penalty if bias is found to be a factor.
These differences can make hate crimes difficult to prosecute, as it is not always clear what triggers a violent act. In order to successfully bring hate crime charges, prosecutors must be able to show that the offender acted on bias.
Whether enhanced by hate crime laws or not, criminal charges can come with serious consequences, ranging from fines to prison sentences. If you have been accused of a crime it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help you protect your rights in the justice system and work toward the best possible outcome in your case.
Source: The Palm Beach Post, “Report: hate crimes drop in Florida,” Dara Kam, Dec. 31, 2012
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