Police say that a Delray Beach driver deliberately vandalized a crosswalk that had been painted in rainbow colors as an homage to Pride Month. Twenty-year-old Alexander Jerich was charged with criminal mischief causing damage over $1,000, reckless driving, and an enhancement for talking an apparently bigoted action.
The driver was in a pickup truck with a blue “all aboard the Trump train” flag flying on it when he peeled out of his spot to intentionally damage the painted crosswalk. The maneuver resulted in the paint being stripped from the crosswalk leaving two tire trails behind it. A witness provided video footage of the defendant’s actions.
The street art cost roughly $16,000 to install and was paid for by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBHRC) and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The colors were an homage to traditional LGBT colors plus a few added for transfolk and BIPOC.
The agencies that paid to have the art installed praised Delray Police for their swift action in apprehending a hateful criminal. They also hope that the defendant will be charged with defacing a memorial which would be treated as a felony. The defendant would be required to reimburse the City for the damage caused to the memorial in addition to other felony penalties.
Florida recently passed a law to “combat public disorder” which makes it a felony to deface a memorial or historic piece of property. While this law was no doubt aimed at protesters taking down statues of confederates and other potentially alarming reminders of white supremacy, it can be used in this case to prosecute a man who defaced the LGBT art for Pride Month.
Evidencing prejudice while committing an offense
Florida Statutes 775.085 allows a felony or misdemeanor to be reclassified as a higher offense if there is evidence of prejudice committed in the offense. Essentially, any crime that evidences prejudice against a person who has a protected characteristic (race, religion, age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc…) has their crime reclassified as one degree more severe than it was before. So second-degree misdemeanors become first-degree misdemeanors and third-degree felonies become second-degree felonies.
The prosecution need only prove that the defendant knew that they were targeting someone based on a protected status. While most of these crimes are prosecuted against people harming people, defacing an LGBT art installation may apply. The law has not been thoroughly tested here. However, the text of the law seems to suggest that it doesn’t matter if the target was a person or an installation.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re facing charges for criminal activity, then you want a skilled West Palm Beach criminal attorney who will help you get out in front of the charges and prepare a strong defense to reduce your debt to the state and get you a result you can live with. Call The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to learn more.