Florida law provides enhancements (or increased penalties) for the wearing of a mask during the commission of a criminal offense.
The legislative intent behind this is to punish more harshly those who seek to conceal their identities during the commission of a crime.
To paraphrase Florida Statute 775.0845, the statute essential says the following:
Wearing [a] mask while committing a criminal offense shall be reclassified to the next higher degree as provided in this section if, while committing the offense, the offender was wearing a hood, mask, or other device that concealed his or her identity.
(1)(a) In the case of a misdemeanor of the second degree, the offense is reclassified to a misdemeanor of the first degree.
(b) In the case of a misdemeanor of the first degree, the offense is reclassified to a felony of the third degree. For purposes of sentencing under chapter 921 and determining incentive gain-time eligibility under chapter 944, such offense is ranked in level 2 of the offense severity ranking chart.
(2)(a) In the case of a felony of the third degree, the offense is reclassified to a felony of the second degree.
(b) In the case of a felony of the second degree, the offense is reclassified to a felony of the first degree.
In other words, a burglary of a dwelling, which is normally a second-degree felony, would become a first-degree felony if the accused allegedly wore a mask or hood during the commission of the offense.
Felonies that are punishable by life (PBL), such as armed burglary and kidnapping become life felonies when a hood or mask is allegedly worn.
Since wearing a hood or mask during a criminal offense enhances the degree and possible penalty, a jury must make a finding of fact that a mask or hood was worn during the commission of the offense.
This type of proof can be provided by eyewitness testimony, video surveillance, or a confession, if the accused admits to wearing a hood or mask.
Otherwise, without fingerprints, DNA, or other physical evidence, it is very tough to convict somebody accused of wearing a mask since the witnesses will likely be unable to identify the suspect.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward. Call today to speak with Attorney Eric Matheny about your case.