Community Action Needed! SB 588: A Critical Update to Florida’s Hate Crime Law

SB 588: A Critical Update to Florida’s Hate Crime Law

Tell the members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to pass this critical update to Florida’s Hate Crime Law!

The Florida Hate Crime Coalition (FHCC), spearheaded by the Anti-Defamation League, is urging a Florida Senate Committee to support Senate Bill 588, which through critical updates strengthens the State’s hate crime law. 

The Bill has been scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee this Tuesday, February 6, at 9am. ADL Southeastern Counsel David Barkey will be testifying before the Committee.

“We urge members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to pass this crucial legislation. Florida must recognize that hate crimes, which target victims simply for whom they are or perceived to be, terrorize and strike fear within victimized groups,” said ADL Southeastern Area Counsel David Barkey. “In light of the spike in extremism-motivated violence and hate crimes that we are seeing locally and nationally, now is the time for the State Legislature to strengthen the hate crime law by moving this legislation forward.”

Close to 30 years ago, the Florida legislature enacted the hate crime law, which the Florida Supreme Court ruled constitutional in 1994. The law, however, needs to be strengthened and updated to protect all Floridians. Senate Bill 588 will:

  • Expand the law’s definition of disability: under the current law, a hate crime cannot be charged if the victim is intentionally targeted because he or she is paralyzed, blind or for any other physical disability. Rather, to be covered a victim must also have a mental disability and be “incapacitated.” 
  • Bring the Florida Hate Crime law into conformity with federal hate crime law by adding the categories of gender and gender identity. 
  • Cover “mixed-motive” hate crimes, which are currently not covered under the hate crime law.  So for example, if a victim gets into a fender bender with a perpetrator, and immediately afterward the perpetrator assaults the victim while screaming, for example, racial or religious slurs at the victim, as well as screaming about the accident, a hate crime cannot be charged.

Background on the Bill:

In Florida, a hate crime cannot be charged if a victim is targeted because of a physical disability such as blindness. The law also does not cover “mixed-motive” hate crimes.  So for example, a hate crime cannot be charged if a perpetrator involved in a fender-bender assaults the other driver while yelling both racial epithets and angry remarks about the accident at the victim. Furthermore, the law’s omission of gender and gender identity does not conform to the federal hate crime law.

SB 588, filed by Senator Rader, would fix all of these issues with the current hate crimes law.

Formed by the Anti-Defamation League, the Florida Hate Crime Coalition (FHCC) is leading the advocacy on SB 588. An FAQ is available that provides more information on this legislation.

Take Action:

Take action now to convey your support for SB 588 to the members of the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Sample Language for Calls/Emails:

 Dear Senator (Insert Name),

 I urge you to pass SB 588 when it is heard before the Criminal Justice Committee this coming Tuesday, February 6th, because all Floridians deserve the protection of our hate crime law.  Enacted in 1989, Florida’s hate crime law has a number of longstanding gaps, which SB 588 would fix.

Currently, a hate crime cannot be charged if a victim is targeted because of physical disability such as blindness, or because of a victim’s gender or gender identity.  The current law also does not cover “mixed-motive” hate crimes.  So for example, a hate crime cannot be charged if a perpetrator involved in a fender-bender assaults the other driver while yelling both racial epithets and angry remarks about the accident at the victim.

Strong, inclusive hate crime laws are an essential component in deterring and preventing these types of crimes.  In 2016, Florida witnessed another significant increase in hate crimes.  Now is the time for Florida to move forward with a comprehensive hate crime law. Please take action now to help protect ALL Floridians.

Sincerely,

(Insert your name)

We are counting on our community to help get SB 588 passed. Help advocate by contacting your representatives today! 

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