Criminal Defense Law Firm for Students Accused of Hate Crimes on Campus

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The national news is clamoring with daily reports of politically motivated protests and violence across college and university campuses. Escalating campus protests have come to a boil due to the recent raging conflict in the Middle East. College students in Florida are no exception as chaos ensues at the University of South Florida, the University of Florida at Gainesville, and Florida State University, culminating in the use of tear gas by law enforcement and the arrest of students. Students at other universities across the state continue to actively protest to express their opinions, hoping to effect change.

Constitutional Rights: Freedom of Speech and Assembly

Exercising free speech and assembly are fundamental rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, when the line is crossed into inciting violence or threats of violence, it constitutes a hate crime. According to the most recent facts and statistics released from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, race, ethnicity, and ancestry is the most common reason for hate crimes.

What Constitutes a Hate Crime?

A hate crime targets individuals or groups motivated by bias based on personal characteristics defined by the law. Under Florida Statute 775.085, these characteristics are race, color, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, homeless status, or the advanced age of a victim. When a misdemeanor or felony crime occurs, a conviction carries enhanced penalties if it rises to the level of a hate crime.

Enhanced Penalties Under Florida State Law:

  • A second-degree misdemeanor is reclassified as a first-degree misdemeanor
  • A first-degree misdemeanor is reclassified as a third-degree felony
  • A third-degree felony is reclassified as a second-degree felony
  • A second-degree felony is reclassified as a first-degree felony
  • A first-degree felony is reclassified as a life felony 

Types of Hate Crimes 

Any criminal offense may be classified as a hate crime if it is fueled by prejudice towards certain persons or groups. Common hate crimes are assault, battery, aggravated assault and battery, murder, arson, vandalism, harassment, destruction of property, and sex crimes.

One Mistake Can Jeopardize Your Future

Emotions run high during times of political uncertainty, and students on campus risk jeopardizing their future when peaceful protests escalate to violence. When students violate school policies on conduct and behavior, disciplinary actions at universities and colleges can range from written warnings to suspension or even expulsion.

Legal sanctions for a conviction of an offense may include a permanent criminal record, probation, fines, restitution, jail time, or lifetime imprisonment for the most egregious acts. Collateral consequences for a criminal record affect your ability to find housing, achieve professional licenses, secure employment, and can impact on your relationships. 

The AP Law Group: Aggressive Criminal Defense in Marion and Alachua Counties, Florida

If you have been arrested by law enforcement or are facing disciplinary actions from your college or university, you need a strong criminal defense team to protect your rights. At The AP Law Group, we are criminal defense lawyers who understand your passion regarding global affairs and want to safeguard your future. As seasoned trial attorneys with decades of combined experience, we know what it takes to get real results. Let us fight for you with proven strategies that work.

Contact Attorney Tania Alavi and Attorney Andrew Pozzuto at The AP Law Group at (352) 732-9191 to discuss your case. We have offices in Ocala and Gainesville, Florida. Our criminal defense attorneys have the desired experience for the results you need.