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The FBI has released a report stating that hate crimes are on the rise in Florida. The report claims a 51% rise in incidents from 2016 to 2017. Others, such as critics of the current law, say the numbers could be higher.
Data from a study done by the FBI says Florida has witnessed a massive spike since 2013 (a 102% increase!) This spike in high hate crime rates puts Florida as the number 8 biggest rise-in-hate-crime states. Other states where hate crimes are rising are Wyoming, Georgia, Vermont, Delaware and Washington, D.C, according to the study.
This is because the current law (The Florida Uniform Crime Reporting Program) is not all-inclusive, as far as gender and gender identity is concerned. Individuals with physical disabilities are also not protected under the law and could, therefore, face discrimination without legal help. Currently, the law does not consider a “hate crime” anything having to do with gender, gender identity, or physical disability.
Florida also has a problem with right-wing extremists. A study released in January by the Anti-Defamation League Center found that from 2017 to 2018 extremist groups in the Sunshine State have accounted for five murders or mass shootings, five terror plots and one police shootout. Rallies and racist propaganda has been distributed.
Most of the reported incidents were found to have involved right-wing extremist groups. Two were related to Islamic groups, while one was related to a left-wing group.
A hate crime is defined as a crime in which the motivation for committing it was based on bias. Hate crime laws currently cover:
- National origin
- Mental disability
- Sexual orientation
- Advanced age
The study also found that the most common reason for hate crimes is racial animosity, followed by religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
Two bills, Senate Bill (SB) 940 called the Crimes Evidencing Prejudice Bill, proposed ahead of the 2020 legislative session hopes to end all of that. The second bill, House Bill (HB) 655 called the Offenses Evidencing Prejudice Bill, is co-sponsored by Florida House Rep. Jackie Toledo (R). Protection would also extend to those victimized by hate crimes of association.
Association with hate crimes are criminal acts against someone who is not in a protected class, but is attacked as a result of someone’s hate against a group that is protected. For example, say some friends, who are all gay, are out at a bar with a friend who is not gay. If another patron of the bar starts yelling anti-gay slurs at the group but the straight friend states he or she is not gay and the other patrons assault the straight friend, the other patrons cannot be charged with a hate crime.
In addition to not including gender or physical disability, Florida law also does not include mixed-motive hate crimes. Mixed-motive hate crimes are criminal acts that begin as, or include non-hate-crime motives. For example, let’s say in the case of a fender-bender a person gets out, the other person gets out, and the perpetrator is yelling about the accident. Suppose the other driver is Hispanic, and the perpetrator is also yelling all kinds of anti-Hispanic things and then assaults the Hispanic driver. The perpetrator cannot be charged for a hate crime in this case according to Florida law. The original motive was because of anger due to a car accident.
This new bill would close that gap and make it so the perpetrator in the case could actually be tried for the crime.
Many people may think that hate crime law violations extend to thought or speech. No, Americans are free to believe and say whatever they want to. Special rights are also not given to special groups. Minorities as well as the majority are protected under the law. No matter what ethnicity.
Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.