What is a Hate Crime in New Jersey?

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Hate crime convictions have serious and life-altering consequences. New Jersey takes hate crimes very seriously and as such the penalties are severe. Also, there has been an increase in prosecution of these crimes in recent years. This increase is likely due to the high-profile nature of a hate crime. Media outlets cover these types of stories more often, and prosecutors have taken notice. Given the serious nature of these types of crimes, it is imperative that you hire a criminal defense attorney. Find a New Jersey Criminal Defense attorney with experience defending people against hate crime charges.

What is a Hate Crime?

In general terms, a hate crime is any crime that targets an individual for their race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability. The prosecution will have to prove that there was an intentional targeting of an individual. For you to receive hate crime charges, you must also commit an underlying unlawful act. These acts include but are not limited to assault, criminal mischief, and harassment.

The current climate in the country increases the likelihood of hate crime charges. There is quite a bit of unrest in the United States. Prosecutors know this fact, and therefore they are pursuing these types of charges more often. Recent reports suggest that the number of hate crimes is down overall in New Jersey. However, one group is being victimized more often, and that group is Muslims. There are also reports that suggest that these statistics are inaccurate.

New Jersey has even set up a special task force to deal with these types of crimes. The Bias Crime Unit is part of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. Their sole responsibility is to investigate bias crimes. They also offer educational services to the community about hate crimes. Additionally, they offer a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to a bias crime conviction. You can find more information about the Bias Crime Unit here.

Bias Crimes

New Jersey refers to the most common bias crime as bias intimidation. The first type of bias intimidation is committing a crime with the intention of intimidating a group or individual on the basis of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or ethnicity. This is the least serious of the bias crimes in New Jersey. An example of this type of crime is threatening someone while including racial slurs.

Secondly, knowingly committing a crime that will directly effect one of these groups is also a bias crime. Also, specifically targeting a group of people will result in bias crime charges. Examples of these types of crimes include committing an assault on the basis of someone religion or calling in a bomb threat to a religious establishment.

Penalties for Bias Crimes in New Jersey

The penalties for a bias crime in New Jersey is directly proportional to the severity of the underlying crime. This means that the bias crime charge will be one degree higher than the crime. For example, a bias intimidation charge will make a misdemeanor a fourth-degree indictable defense (felony) in New Jersey. So, a disorderly person charge which under normal circumstances is a misdemeanor becomes a felony. If the crime is already a first-degree offense, then the bias crime charge will also be a first-degree charge. Hate crimes also add to the punishments for a crime. You can expect an increase in both a prison sentence and fines in these cases.

There have been some changes to the bias crime laws in New Jersey. A 2015 case resulted in part of the law being deemed unconstitutional. In this case, the court only took into consideration the victim’s perception of the events. The prosecution had no proof that the defendant had a bias against the victim. The court ruling made this portion of the law unconstitutional, and now the prosecution must prove the bias during a trial.

Douglas Herring Can Help

Douglas Herring has years of experience with New Jersey criminal defense cases. No matter what the charge is, he and his team are ready to aggressively defend you. If you have a pending criminal case, you don’t want to trust your future to just anyone. A criminal conviction can greatly affect the rest of your life especially if the charges include a hate crime. The effects of a felony conviction linger on long after the trial is over. Contact Douglas Herring today to learn your options and the best way to proceed with your case.

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