Hate crimes target, threaten, or otherwise victimize a person or group of people based on the fact that they are ‘different’ from others. Previously, these types of charges involved people of different races, religions, or ethnicities. However, authorities in New Jersey have recently moved to expand the guidelines to include others who commonly fall victim to bias. The fact that your charges are classified as a hate crime means you could be facing enhanced criminal penalties. As tougher police policies go into effect, it is vitally important to have an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney on your side.
Changes in New Jersey Hate Crime Guidelines
Hate crimes and incidents involving discrimination or bias against others have seen a definite increase in the past few years. In both in New Jersey and across the country. According to an April 2019 report by NJ.com, roughly 495 hate crimes were reported in our state over the course of 2017. This is nearly 100 more than were reported in the previous year. With increases steadily occurring over the last decade. In addition to the overall increase in hate crimes, the number of people and groups being targeted has increased, as well.
To combat the problem, authorities in New Jersey recently overhauled the guidelines for how police respond to, investigate, and document hate crimes. The previous guidelines have been in place since 2000. Incidents involving people or groups of a different race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity could be classified as a hate crime. Revisions made by the NJ Attorney General’s Office have added additional protected classes, which make it a hate crime to threaten or commit criminal actions against others based on the following:
- Gender identity
- National origin;
- Gender expression;
Charges and Penalties for Hate Crimes in New Jersey
Hate crimes are generally associated with an underlying criminal charge. Such as a physical assault, theft crime, or act of vandalism. In addition to the criminal penalties you face if convicted on the original charge, the fact that it targets a person or group of people in a protected class means the penalties involved will be more severe.
Hate crime charges are generally classified as bias intimidation. Under Section 2C:16-1 of the New Jersey Statutes, a person can be found guilty for any of the following:
- Committing or attempting to commit a crime against a person or group in a protected class;
- Conspiring with another to commit a bias motivated crime;
- Making threats against another that are prejudicial or discriminatory in nature;
- Committing any type of offense against someone in a protected class that causes them to feel intimidated.
If bias intimidation stems from a disorderly persons offense, it can be charged as a crime in the fourth degree. This carries a possible fine of up to $10,000 and up to an 18-month jail sentence. In addition to other penalties, you are likely to face. If it involves more serious criminal charges, it increases the charges one degree higher. In cases involving crimes such as assault, robbery, kidnapping, or homicide, classification of the matter as a hate crime could increase your potential jail sentence by up to 30 years.
Let Our Milltown County Criminal Defense Attorney Help You
Alleged hate crimes are a serious matter in New Jersey, regardless of the underlying charges. At the Law Office of Jordan B. Rickards, Esq., we provide the aggressive legal representation you need to protect yourself and your rights in these situations. To discuss your case and how we can help, contact our Milltown criminal defense attorney and request a consultation today.