Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Am I allowed to videotape an interaction with police? Can they make me stop filming?”
Hate crime legislation is designed to protect those who are victims of discrimination or violence perpetrated by others. The laws are written to provide this protection to groups based on ethnic, religious and, in some cases, gender or sexual orientation grounds. This means that should a person be attacked specifically because of his or her religion or national origin, the law would treat that attack differently than if religion or national origin had not been a factor, usually by increasing penalties.
Though the groups protected by hate crime laws, known as protected classes, have typically been small, Louisiana has taken a step to broaden it to include professional groups, or at least one professional group: police officers. The new measure that was recently signed into law by Governor John Edwards, says that defendants who attack a police officers because they hate police officers can now be charged with perpetrating a hate crime.
The bill, HB 953, is known informally as Blue Lives Matter, a play on the popular Black Lives Matter movement. The supporters of HB 953 say that police officers are increasingly under attack from the public and that their jobs are especially dangerous. To disincentivize members of the public from harming officers, the hate crime definition was expanded to include police, offering an additional punishment for those who choose to harm cops.
Critics have said that the problem with the law is that it will likely accomplish little on a practical level. One reason for this is that attacks on police officers already received heightened punishment under Louisiana law. Louisiana, like dozens of other states, already has laws on the books that punish people more harshly for injuring or killing police officers. For instance, in Louisiana if someone kills a police officer the state will classify the killing as first-degree murder automatically, even if the murder was not premeditated. This is a protection that is not afforded to any other profession including nurses or lawyers or accountants. Additionally, those found guilty of assaulting a police officer also receive harsher punishment than if the assault had occurred on someone with a different job.
Another problem with the new hate crime definition is that hate crimes are notoriously very difficult to prove. Prosecutors cannot get a conviction simply by showing that a police officer was attacked, they have to show that the officer was attacked by someone who specifically hated police officers and that this hatred motivated the attack. Without showing this motive, the hate crime enhancement will not apply. Given that crimes against police officers already receive criminal enhancement, many experts believe the additional hurdle for prosecutors to have to clear will likely be little used.
If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, please contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Our attorneys stand at the ready to defend you against state or federal charges. Please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.
About the Author
Brad Smith is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of criminal defense, DUI / DWI defense and traffic defense.
Mr. Smith was born and raised in Charlotte. He began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney before entering private practice in 2006.
In his free time, Mr. Smith enjoys traveling, boating, golf, hiking and spending time with his wife and three children.
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