Hate crimes in New Jersey come in two general types. Some crimes contain subsections that increase the penalties if the crime is committed to intimidate someone based on their race, religion, or other factors. Additionally, there is a separate law that punishes other offenses more seriously if they are committed with the intent to threaten or intimidate someone because of their race, religion, or other factors.
If you or a loved one was charged with a hate crime in New Jersey, talk to the Atlantic City hate crime defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our lawyers have decades of experience in criminal law and have handled multiple hate crime allegations. For help with your case, our attorneys offer free, confidential consultations. To schedule your no-obligation consultation, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.
Hate Crimes and Bias Intimidation in Atlantic County
New Jersey’s hate crime statute punishes “bias intimidation.” Bias intimidation is the commission of a crime with the purpose of intimidating a specific group or person because of a characteristic they have. To commit bias intimidation, you must commit, conspire to commit, or threaten to commit another crime listed in N.J.S.A. § 2C:11 through § 2C:18, or additional offenses specifically listed in the statute. This includes crimes such as:
- False imprisonment,
- Sexual assault,
- Criminal mischief (vandalism),
- Certain weapons offenses,
- And more.
In addition to committing one of these offenses, you must also have a particular type of intent or certain circumstances present for this crime to count as a hate crime:
If you commit the crime “with a purpose to intimidate” someone else “because of
- sexual orientation,
- gender identity or expression,
- national origin, or
Even if it was not your intent, you can still be charged with this offense if you know that your conduct could be intimidating to any person or groups of the above identities.
Even if you did not intend to intimidate or think that your conduct would intimidate, you can also be arrested for this offense if your actions do, in fact, intimidate someone. Under this category, the victim must have actually been intimidated and believed that the crime was intended to intimidate them because of one of the features listed above, and that they were chosen as the victim because of one of those features.
If there is any evidence that the victim was indeed selected because of their race, color, religion, sexual orientation, etc., then the jury can infer that the actor intended to intimidate that person based on those factors.
Examples of Hate Crimes in NJ
If there is nothing about the crime that specifically ties it to the victim’s race, etc., then hate crime charges should be inappropriate. However, this line is sometimes hard to draw. Here are some common examples of hate crimes:
- Spray-painting a swastika and threat of violence on a Jewish synagogue,
- Burning a cross in a black family’s yard while throwing rocks through their windows, and
- Seeking out and assaulting men who hold hands in public.
On the other hand, these are examples of crimes that should not be elevated to the level of “hate crime” without additional proof of biased intent:
- Spraying non-religious graffiti in a predominately Muslim neighborhood,
- A black man punching a white man in a bar fight, or
- Sexually assaulting a victim of the same sex.
Without further information, there is nothing to indicate that these charges should be counted as hate crimes. In many of these cases, hate crimes may be unfairly charged because the victim carried one of the features that could make the crime an intimidation bias offense. If there is no proof of intent to intimidate based on race, religion, etc., then hate crime charges should be dismissed.
Penalties for Hate Crimes in Atlantic County
In New Jersey, some crimes have their own increased penalties if the offense is a hate crime. For example, some vandalism offenses carry automatically increased penalties if the offense is committed on property owned by a church or similar organization. Otherwise, bias intimidation is charged as one degree higher than the underlying offense.
Criminal charges in New Jersey range from disorderly persons offenses to fourth, third, second, or first degree crimes (by increasing severity). If the underlying offense is a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense, the bias intimidation offense is charged as a fourth degree crime. Otherwise, the bias intimidation charges are one degree higher, on top of the charges for the underlying offense.
Underlying offenses and bias intimidation charges are separate offenses. These offenses do not “merge,” and you can face the full penalties for both crimes, which are sentenced separately. However, nothing stops those sentences from running concurrently.
Penalties for bias intimidation can also carry additional penalties, such as completing counseling or educational courses on hate crimes, anger management, violence prevention, etc., or making payments toward hate crime victim compensation funds.
Call Our Atlantic City Hate Crime Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation
The Atlantic City hate crime attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those accused of serious offenses like bias intimidation and other hate crimes in New Jersey. To schedule a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.