Being charged with a hate crime in New Jersey is extremely serious and has life-altering implications. If convicted, you will face a severe fine, prison time, a criminal record, and extreme difficulty finding a job. Moreover, with the added news media attention associated with hate crimes, New Jersey prosecutors are being even more conscientious than ever before about bringing charges for such offenses. Consequently, it is crucial that you hire a competent NJ criminal defense attorney who can help clear your name and fight to keep you out of prison.
What is a Hate Crime?
Generally speaking, a hate crime is any unlawful act done in a manner that evidences an intention to victimize an individual on account of his actual or perceived race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability. For every hate crime committed, there must be an underlying unlawful act.
That unlawful act can be harassment [N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4], criminal mischief [N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3], aggravated assault [N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)], or any other crime punishable in New Jersey. However, the discrimination component is what elevates that unlawful act to a hate crime. In New Jersey, hate crimes are prosecuted under the state’s bias intimidation statute.
Bias Intimidation [N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1]
Bias intimidation is the most common hate crime you can be charged with in New Jersey. Typically, there are four ways to get convicted of bias intimidation. Primarily, if you commit a crime with the purpose of intimidating an individual or group of individuals because of their race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, ethnicity, or gender identity/expression, you could be convicted of bias intimidation.
Additionally, you could also be convicted if you commit a crime while knowing that doing so would cause an individual or group of individuals to be intimidated because of their race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, ethnicity, or gender identity/expression.
Likewise, if you commit a crime under circumstances that cause any target/victim of that crime to be intimidated and he reasonably believes that the crime was done for the purpose of intimidating him due to the fact that he falls into one of the above-mentioned protected classes, you could be convicted of bias intimidation.
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Lastly, if you commit a crime against the property of another and you selected that property as the target of your crime due to the fact that the property owner was a member of one of the above-mentioned protected classes, you also could be convicted of bias intimidation.
Penalties and Fines
The penalty for bias intimidation is directly proportional to the penalty for the underlying crime. In other words, bias intimidation is a crime one degree higher than the most serious underlying offense you are being charged with that relates to the alleged discrimination. For example, if you are being charged with bias intimidation due to committing aggravated assault, a second degree crime in NJ, you will be facing a charge for first degree bias intimidation.
When the underlying crime is already a first degree crime, the bias intimidation charge will also be in the first degree. Make no mistake, if you are found guilty of bias intimidation, you will be sentenced for both the underlying offense and bias intimidation. This means you will face two punishments: one for the underlying crime (e.g. aggravated assault) and one for bias intimidation [N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(3)(e)]. In this example, you could go to prison for up to 10 years for the aggravated assault charge and up to 30 years for the bias intimidation charge!
Ultimately, it is absolutely imperative to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows what to do in order to adequately protect your rights.
Who Should I Contact?
If you or a loved one was recently charged with a hate crime in NJ, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of Rosenblum Law today. Mr. Rosenblum is a skilled criminal defense attorney who has helped people in similar situations. He will defend your constitutional rights and do what he can to have your hate crime charges dismissed. E-mail or call him today at 888-815-3649.