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Proposed Legislation Would Protect Law Enforcement Under Hate Crime Laws

August 22nd, 2017 by Jake Stofan

08/22/2017

If a person is targeted because of of their sexual orientation, race or religion in Florida they can be charged with a hate crime, which carries increased penalties.

The deaths of two police officers over the weekend and the shooting of two others, has lawmakers looking to add law enforcement and emergency service personnel to those protected groups.

 

 

Hate crime laws are designed  protect vulnerable minority groups.

Proposed legislation would extend the protection to police and emergency workers.

When a person is charged with a hate crime they face increased penalties.

What would normally be a first degree misdemeanor would instead become a third degree felony.

The Florida Police Benevolence Association says recent animosity towards police has created a need for additional protections.

 

“There seems to be a tension across the United States. So again, if we can have somebody think twice about doing something whether it’s assaulting an officer or stealing something or whatever, we think it’s a good idea,” said Ken Kopczynski with FPBA.

The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says enhanced penalties already exist for those who commit crimes against on duty police officers.

 

“For your more common crimes like batteries and assaults there is a reclassification statute that basically moves the seriousness of the offense up one level,” said Legislative Chair of FACD, Luke Newman.

If passed the legislation would expand protections to include off duty officers as well, or anyone the perpetrator perceives to be law enforcement

By expanding hate crime protection to law enforcement and emergency service personnel criminal defense lawyers say it could open the doors for other occupations to also ask for the same protections.

 

“Are construction workers next? You know depending on your point of view, you start adding occupations. I think there could be a criticism made that there’s a slippery slope involved,” said Newman.

The Florida Sheriffs Association supported similar legislation last year, but says it has not yet taken a position on the bill filed Monday.

The bill was filed four days after four Florida police offers were shot in the line of duty.

When similar legislation was proposed in 2017 no committee heard it

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