Boca Raton Legislators Looking to Expand Hate Crimes Coverage to Governments, Organizations

This week, state Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, and state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, offered a proposal “to update Florida statutes addressing hate crimes by allowing government, public and private organizations to be classified as victims of misdeeds motivated by race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability.”

The two Democrats pointed to an incident this summer when Alexander Jerich was accused of criminal mischief and reckless driving with property damage when he used his pickup truck to deface an LGBTQ pride symbol on a Delray Beach street. The incident was recorded.

“The bill was drafted following the vandalism of a Delray Beach intersection decorated to honor those murdered at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, an attack on the LGBTQ and Latin American communities as well as the second-deadliest mass shooting in American history. Under current law, the Palm Beach County State Attorney is unable to pursue hate crime charges against the suspect because cities have no standing as victims of hate crimes from a statutory perspective,” noted the legislators’ offices.

“When acts of hate are perpetrated against individuals, we pursue and reprimand those responsible in order to serve justice and reaffirm the human dignity of the victims. When acts of hate are perpetrated against public property or government entities, we must do the same. This legislation allows law enforcement officials to seek full and appropriate redress for expressions of hate which have no place in Florida,” Polsky said.

“To further unity and acceptance in the community, we need to deter crimes, particularly those that show bias,” Slosberg said. “This legislation goes a long way towards that end.”

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg had been planning to charge Jerich with a hate crime but found his hands were tied.

“This important bill will close a glaring loophole in state law that allows defendants to avoid hate crime charges even though their actions were motivated by prejudice. This bill gives prosecutors the tools needed to hold fully accountable those who harm our community with hateful conduct,” Aronberg said about the new proposal.

Kevin Derby
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