A hate crime is any crime that is fueled by prejudice against a traditionally marginalized group, such as people of color or people with disabilities. Often, but not always, hate crimes are violent crimes such as assault. Because of the motivation for these crimes, they are sometimes referred to as “bias crimes.”
Bias intimidation is the most common hate crime charge. N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1 states that any person who commits, conspires to commit, threatens or attempts to commit a crime that meets the following criteria is guilty of a hate crime in New Jersey.
- The act must becommitted with the intention of intimidating an individual or groupof individuals on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin,gender identity or expression, religion, sexual orientation,handicap, ethnicity or sex.
- The defendant knewthe act he or she committed would cause distress or offense to anindividual or group because of one or more of thepreviously-mentioned categories.
- The act wascommitted in a manner that caused the victim or victims to feel thathe, she or they were suffering from a hate crime. This can includeinstances where property was destroyed or damaged and there isreason to believe the victim was singled out because of his or herrace, handicap, sex, sexual orientation, religion, gender identityor expression, handicap, national origin, ethnicity or color.
The penalty for bias intimidation is determined by the underlying crime. When a crime is determined to be a hate crime, its penalty is one degree higher than it would be if it was not a hate crime. For example, a second-degree aggravated assault that is deemed to be bias intimidation would be charged as a first-degree crime in New Jersey. If the underlying crime is a first-degree crime, the bias intimidation charge is charged separately. If this is the case, the defendant faces a prison term of ten to thirty years with a presumption that he or she will serve at least twenty of those years.
Other crimes that may be elevated to hate crime status are harassment and criminal mischief.
N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 defines harassment as any behavior that is made with the intention of annoying or alarming the victim. These behaviors can be physical, such as shoving, kicking, hitting or other unwelcome touching; or verbal, such as excessively offensive language, anonymous or incessant contact, or communication meant to startle or cause emotional discomfort.
N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3 discusses criminal mischief, which is the destruction of another person’s property. Criminal mischief charges are graded by the monetary value of the property damaged or destroyed and are applicable to any behavior where the offender knowingly damages property.
In addition to fines and jail terms imposed for the conviction of a hate crime, the defendant may be required to complete additional punitive and rehabilitative actions. The following requirements may be added to a hate crime sentence:
- The offender mustcomplete a course in sensitivity training or other education aboutprotected groups.
- The offender mustcomplete a counseling program aimed at changing his or her attitudesand behavior.
- The offender mustcompensate, through monetary or other means, a group designated forhelping victims of bias crime.
For a crime to be considered a hate crime in New Jersey, there must be substantial proof that the victim or victims were targeted because of their status as part of a protected group. A defense that the offender did not know the victim’s race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, religion, national origin, handicap, ethnicity, or sexual orientation when committing an otherwise obvious hate crime is not acceptable in court.
For more information specific to your hate crime case, call Ron Bar-Nadav at 201-525-1555 today to discuss your legal options. The best defense in court is a capable, knowledgeable attorney. Ron Bar-Nadav has extensive experience working in criminal law in Bergen County and can help you build and fight your case. Don’t wait – call now to ensure the best possible defense for your hate crime case.