Under Florida Statute 775.085 a defendant may be more heavily punished if the victim is selected based upon race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homelessness, mental or physical disability or advanced age.
This statute allows a defendant to be sentenced under the next higher level or degree of offenses. For instance, a third degree felony would be reclassified as a second degree felony and punished accordingly. Therefore, instead of a maximum sentence of five years in prison as a third degree felony a defendant could be sentenced up to a maximum of 15 years in prison based solely upon a discriminatory motive for the crime.
Historically sentencing judges have considered a number of factors in sentencing a defendant who has been found guilty or pled guilty to a criminal offense. Of course, a defendant’s prior record, other pending charges and victim injury are all significant in deciding on a proper sentence.
A defendant’s motive for committing a crime is another important consideration. As stated in Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993), the supreme court properly noted that “deeply ingrained in our legal traditions is the idea that the more purposeful is the criminal conduct, the more serious is the offense, and therefore, the more severely it ought to be punished.” Wisconsin v. Mitchell.
In short, Florida Statute 775.085 singles out for enhancement bias-inspired conduct because this conduct is thought to reflect greater individual and societal harm. These discriminatory–motivated crimes are more likely to incite retaliatory crimes, inflect distinct emotional harm on their victims and provoke community unrest.
The State of Florida’s rationale to redress these perceived harms set forth in Florida Statute 775.085 provides an adequate justification for the penalty enhancement provisions of the law.
As Blackstone said long ago, “It is but reasonable that among crimes of different natures those should be most severely punished, which are the most destructive of the public safety and happiness.”
If you or a loved one has been accused of a “hate crime” in Sarasota or Manatee Counties having an attorney, who is a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer and experienced in criminal defense, will be very valuable. James Dirmann will be happy to talk with you about your case in a confidential conference, so you can be more aware of any defenses available as well as all of your constitutional rights and safeguards.