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A Florida Man Faces Possible Hate Crime Charges

A man is facing hate-crime charges after authorities allege he broke into and vandalized an Islamic center in North Palm Beach Florida. Authorities brought hate crime charges against the 27-year-old defendant alleging he targeted the Islamic Center of Palm Beach. The defendant was charged with burglary of a dwelling and damaging property at a religious center. Later the defendant was released on $1,500 bail. Under Florida law the addition of a hate crime charge means the defendant may face a possible life sentence if convicted of the alleged crime. What is a Hate Crime? Hate crimes are criminal acts perpetrated against a victim because of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. A hate crime can be almost any type of violent crime, but the most common include assault, assault with a weapon, robbery, harassment, vandalism, rape, and murder. Type of Hate Crime Protections Florida’s hate crime statutes are designed to protect individuals based on actual or perceived characteristics and Florida vigorously prosecutes hate crimes. There are two main categories of hate crime laws that seek to protect vulnerable communities: Laws that protect institutions: These are laws prohibiting institutional vandalism. These laws enhance crimes such as defacing a church, mosque, or synagogue. Laws that protect individuals: These are laws that protect individuals based on their membership in a specific group. Hate crime laws make it crime to perpetrate a crime against a person because of their membership in a protected class. Motivation Matters for Hate Crimes A defendant’s motivation is key to a hate crime charge. If a prosecutor believes that the accused criminal behavior was motivated simply by the defendant’s prejudice or hatred of the victim then the criminal act qualifies as a hate crime. During a trial in which there is a potential hate crime penalty, a prosecutor must be able to demonstrate that a defendant perceived, knew, or had reasonable grounds to know that the victim was a member of a particular group. On the other hand, if a defendant’s primary motivation for the criminal offense was something else (e.g. monetary gain), then crime is not likely to be classified as a hate crime. Florida Heavily Penalizes Hate Crimes Hate crime charges enhance the penalties a defendant might face before a Florida court of law. For example, a second-degree misdemeanor charge can become a first-degree charge if the assault is charged as a hate crime. A defendant convicted of a hate crime can face severe penalties that include long-term imprisonment, probation, high fines, and mandatory community service or rehabilitation. Florida’s hate crime laws also apply to charges brought up against minors. Seek Help From an Attorney If you are facing hate crimes charges, contact a criminal defense attorney at Moses & Rooth. We can help you through the process and seek the best outcome possible for you. Call us today at (407)-377-0150 to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help you.  

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Are Some Problem Florida Law Enforcement Officers Still on the Job?

As a society we like to think that we can place our trust in law enforcement officers to not only protect us, but also our loved ones – and in the vast majority of situations Florida police officers rightly earn this trust. However, the Herald-Tribune recently released an investigative report that, if proven true, has unearthed some very frightening allegations regarding some of Florida’s “finest.” The Herald-Tribune reported situations in which many police continue to be on the job even though there exists ample evidence they have committed severe crimes – crimes involving drugs, violence and even forcible sex, including allegations of sex with children as young as 14-years-old. Given the extremely severe penalties possible when private citizens commit battery on law enforcement officers, it is surprising that it appears the same standards fail to apply to a few “bad apple” law enforcement officers. Allegations of Misconduct Against Florida Police The majority of Florida’s 83,000 law enforcement officers is extremely committed to the job and performs the duties with zeal and integrity. However as with any job, there are always a few that can ruin the image for everyone. Recently, the Herald-Tribune spent eight months looking into how law enforcement officials investigate and handle officer misconduct – reviewing thousands of cases. Some of the newspaper’s findings included: One out of 20 current Florida law enforcement officers has committed a moral character violation severe enough to risk his or her job, including 30 officers and prison guards who are still working even though they have four or more offenses. The number of officers with serious violations is probably much higher than state records show. Even though state law calls for each violation to be reviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, local agencies have faced no consequences for failing to report cases – some Sheriff’s Offices haven’t reported any violations in 26 years. Some police departments have permitted problem officers to resign during an investigation, which means they are listed as leaving voluntarily in the computerized tracking system – which can be very misleading when subsequent law enforcement agencies review an officer’s history before hiring them. In fact, the Herald-Tribune discovered two expressed agreements between officers and police departments that kept the truth regarding their departure a secret.

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