Hate Crimes in New Jersey
In recent years, hate crime allegations have substantially increased and garnered national media attention. Consequently, New Jersey courts are being more conscientious than before about bringing such charges against an individual.
A hate crime is described as any criminal offense that targets a person due to their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. Prosecutors are required to prove that a defendant intentionally targeted someone and committed an underlying act such as harassment, criminal mischief, assault, or another crime against the individual.
The most common hate crime committed in New Jersey is “bias intimidation.” This means if you commit a crime in order to intimidate a person or group of individuals due to their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability, you could be charged with bias intimidation. Furthermore, you could be charged with this crime if a person feels threatened and has reason to believe the crime you’ve committed was done for the purpose of intimidation or if you commit a crime against another person’s property because the owner belongs to a protected class.
The penalties associated with bias intimidation in New Jersey depend on the underlying crime’s penalties. In general, bias intimidation is increased to one degree higher than the underlying offense.
For example, if the hate crime is simple assault, which is a disorderly persons offense that is punishable by a maximum six-month jail sentence and/or a fine of up to $1,000, it will be charged as a fourth-degree crime (felony offense) that carries a prison term of up to 18 months and/or a maximum $10,000 fine. If the underlying offense is a first-degree crime, then bias intimidation will also be a first-degree crime.
If a jury finds you guilty of bias intimidation, you will be sentenced for both that offense and the underlying crime. In other words, you will be subject to two punishments.
If you have been accused of a hate crime in New Jersey, you must remember that the prosecution must prove a bias existed during your trial. At Brickfield & Donahue, we can review your case and build an effective and personalized defense strategy to show the court that bias wasn’t a factor.
For more information about hate crimes in Bergen County, contact us today at (201) 574-7919.