Homeless to Become the Newest Protected Class.

I sometimes wonder what legislators are thinking when the are writing laws. Florida is about to embark on another journey into the absurd.

Legislators are working to pass a bill that would make crimes against the homeless a hate crime. The reported the following:

Prompted by the 2006 homeless attack in Fort Lauderdale that gained worldwide notoriety, the Florida Legislature is moving to add the homeless as a protected class under state hate crimes laws.

Senate and House committees approved legislation that would make prejudice-driven attacks against the homeless a hate crime, meaning longer jail sentences for offenders. The issue will get more consideration during the legislative session, which starts March 2.

Florida has led the nation for four consecutive years in violent attacks against the homeless– with 30 such incidents in 2008.

Currently, protected classes under Florida’s hate-crimes law are race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, mental or physical disability or age.

In 2008, Florida had 182 reported hate crimes. Almost half of those were motivated by race.

Florida had 30 attacks against the homeless and 182 reported hate crimes in 2008. I think those numbers require a little perspective. In 2008 Florida also had 82,825 assaults, 36,273 robberies, 1,168 murders and 126, 265 violent crimes overall (source: Florida Uniform Crime Repots for 2008). If Florida legislators feel that they need to address crime in the state of Florida there are more pressing issues.

I am not a fan of "hate crime" laws in general. The fact that the law provides enhanced penalties for the motivation leading to a crime is absurd. Think about it this way; dirt-bag A beats citizen B into a coma with a baseball bat. In this scenario dirt-bag A did so because he wanted citizen B's wallet.

Now let's change the scenario and say he did it because citizen B was gay, black, Catholic or homeless. Tell me what diference does that make to citizen B who is lying in the hospital in a coma. We should be penalizing the crime not the motivation. To say that in one case they guy in the coma is less a victim than in the other case is flat out ridiculous. This is not equal protection it under the law. Both victims suffered the same injuries but are treated differently based on the motivation of the attacker.

We need to be tougher on crime in general. A battery should be a battery, an assault an assault. What we should do is increase the penalty so that people do not commit batteries and assaults. When you consider that in Florida alone there were over 126,000 violent crimes it is safe to assume that something does have to be addressed. What the legislature is considering is addressing 30 criminal acts while ignoring a 126,000 other criminal acts. In what world does that make any sense?

Each citizen in this country should enjoy the same (equal) protection under the law. The penalty should be commensurate to the crime and not based on what the criminal was thinking. It is safe to assume that a degenerate who kills someone is worthy of prison regardless of why they do so.

As a matter of course these types of crimes are hard to prove anyway. Most criminals are smart enough to keep their mouths shut and would be unlikely to put the noose around their own neck by admitting to something that carries and enhanced penalty. Short of a confession it is hard to generate physical evidence of intent. So why waste the time doing so. Increase the penalty of the base crime and drop the intent requirement. Put the bad guys in prison and let them rot; problem solved.

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