Man charged with a crime after altercation in French Quarter

Arrests and prosecutions for hate crimes are a growing phenomenon throughout the country. In Louisiana, it's a crime to commit an offense against person or property because of actual or perceived race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry. If a person does anything within that definition he or she is likely to be charged with a crime.

An incident occurred recently in the French Quarter that resulted in charges against a 19-year-old man for assault and a hate crime. Police say that the man and three friends were pedestrians on North Rampart Street when they observed two men across the street walking together and holding hands. The group shouted anti-gay slurs, and the victim responded by saying 'come over here' and challenging them to make the comments directly to his face.

The group crossed the street, and at some point the accused punched the victim in the face. Witnesses recorded the license number of a fleeing vehicle, which eventually resulted in the apprehension of the accused. The man reportedly told police that the victim had flinched and he reacted by punching him. He was booked and charged with a crime at the Orleans Parish criminal court.

The prosecution of hate crime offenders is an understandably meritorious effort that serves the public good. However, those accused may sometimes be caught in the wide web cast by the statute's general definition of an offense. Therefore, an accused should evaluate a criminal defense with experienced counsel.

In Louisiana, therefore, if a person is charged with a crime under these circumstances, he will be best served by first obtaining an early consultation with qualified criminal defense counsel. There may be some question whether the hate crime statute precisely applies. After counsel and the accused evaluate the facts and the reported case law, if it appears that there is a strong likelihood of guilt, then an early negotiation with authorities can serve an accused well under these facts. Where there is a reasonable suggestion of mitigating circumstances, an early agreement can contain important concessions from the prosecutor.

Source: nola.com, "19-year-old Metairie man arrested in hate crime in New Orleans," Helen Freund, March 1, 2013

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