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Florida Legislature takes steps to add the homeless to hate-crimes law

in Statewide by
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.

The Florida bill will likely run into opposition on several fronts.

Some oppose hate crimes laws in general, arguing that all victims should be treated equally. Given the state’s budget crunch, legislators are hesitant to increase criminal penalties – which add strain on overstuffed prisons. And even proponents of hate-crimes laws have objections, saying adding the homeless as a category would dilute the overall impact.

Read the South Florida Sun-Sentinel report here.

Thanks to Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, and Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, for leading this effort. — From the 13th Juror.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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