SARASOTA, Fla. -- A Texas legislator has filed a bill making any attack on a law enforcement officer or first responder a hate crime. A Florida legislator from Lakeland plans on doing the same. But how does this make the crime any worse? We presented three scenarios to a Sarasota attorney for his analysis.
In September, Phoenix police say a man deliberately drove his car into three police officers standing at a gas station. One suffered a concussion, the other a broken leg and the third scrapes and bruises.
Sarasota defense attorney Brett McIntosh says, "If that event occurred in Florida there'd be three charges of aggravated battery on a police officer, a first-degree felony, get life in prison … not sure how much more adding a hate crime designation do to it. It would depend on the wording of the legislation."
In March last year, police say a Lake Wales man called 911 to lure officers to his home. When officers showed up he shot at 12 of them and hurt two.
"Probably attempted first-degree murder on police officers. The penalty would be around 12 life sentences available to the prosecutor. Add hate crime 24 life sentence,” says McIntosh. In this case, the hate crime penalty is trumped by the life sentences.
McIntosh says Florida already has tougher penalties for crimes against police officers versus civilians.
Still, McIntosh says even if first responders are designated as a profession protected under hate crime laws, hate must be proven. He says, “You have to prove it was motivated by hatred of that particular group."
Such as in the case of a Chicago police officer earlier this year. The officer was beaten by a man police say was on PCP.
"Is violence the result of the PCP experience or motivated by hatred of police officers?" says McIntosh.
Will the Texas hate crime bill deter crimes against police officers? McIntosh says no. He adds, "It’s essentially a knee-jerk reaction by legislators to a problem that already has been dealt with, legislation exists currently."