Two 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old were charged with aggravated stalking with a hate crime enhancement Friday after police were called to investigate a reported incident at a school bus stop in Palm Bay, Florida.
The trio is accused of repeatedly attacking and bullying an autistic teen while using racial slurs.
Police reports indicate the autistic teen attempted to run away from the teens and was almost struck by a motorcycle and a pickup truck.
As the teen sat on the school bus, he was allegedly struck in the face repeatedly.
Police claim a video of the alleged incident was posted on Facebook, which caused the teen to be admitted to a medical facility for an evaluation.
The three teens were arrested and taken to the Juvenile Detention Center in Sharpes.
The teens will make their first appearance in front of a Juvenile Court judge within 21 days for a hearing on the charges.
The State Attorney’s Office will later decide whether to pursue the hate crime charge and whether to prosecute the teens as adults.
It will be interesting to see if the prosecution chooses to pursue the enhanced hate crime charge and if the teens will be tried in adult court. Studies show that trying minors as adults does not actually rehabilitate teens; rather, it makes them more vulnerable to reoffend upon being released back into society. As former State Juvenile Prosecutors, the Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton understand the importance of keeping children from being charged as adults. We will vigorously fight to keep your child out of adult court or make sure that the full range of legal defenses are presented to your child.
A hate crime can be charged anytime a person or group is targeted due to their religion, race, ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, political association, sexual orientation or disability. Contrary to popular belief, hate crimes do not have to involve physical violence to be charged as such. In fact, the mere threat of violence can bring about charges. Hate crimes are considered felony offenses punishable by imprisonment, probation, restitution to the victim, mandatory counseling and large fines. The death penalty can be imposed in serious hate crimes cases, typically those involving murder.
Hate crimes accusations are not taken lightly by law enforcement or prosecutors. The State has no tolerance for individuals who commit acts of hate against others and endanger innocent lives. Even if you never inflicted any harm on another, you will still be aggressively prosecuted. For these reasons alone, it is imperative to contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible to guide you through the criminal process.