Hate Crime Complaints in N.J. are Going Up, After Years of Steady Decline: do we Even Need to Guess who is Responsible?

Trenton NJ Hate Crime Defense Lawyers

The relentless, and always uninformed, anti-immigration rhetoric coming from the current President of the United States and his administration is at least partially responsible for an uptick in hate crimes in the Garden State. That fact was confirmed this week by New Jersey’s top law enforcement official, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

Specifically, new data was just released by the New Jersey State Police, showing that reports of hate crimes have begun climbing. Attorney General Grewal stated:

It’s sad that we see bias incidents trending upward, but it’s not surprising, given that we have political leaders in this country who encourage the expression of intolerance and hatred, or in other cases, ignore or countenance it. . . . What we need to do, as individuals and as a society, is to push back against this prejudice.

What is particularly troubling is the fact that schools were the most frequent location of such crimes. Indeed, 27% of the total number of hate crime reports came from incidents at New Jersey schools.

The State Police report on bias/hate crimes reveals that the groups most frequently targeted were black and Jewish citizens. The increase in New Jersey mirrors a spike nationwide, which the FBI reported last year.

The N.J. Attorney General was careful to note that even though the current White House’s rhetoric has had a significant part to play in the increase in bias incidents, the increase could also be attributed to better capturing of data.

Hate Crime Law In New Jersey

A “hate crime” is, in general, any crime committed in which the perpetrator’s actions were motivated by a desire to victimize a person because of his or her race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability.

In New Jersey, hate crimes are prosecuted under the state’s Bias Intimidation statute at N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1 in the New Jersey Criminal Code. The statute states, in relevant part, as follows:

2C:16-1. Bias Intimidation.

a. Bias Intimidation. A person is guilty of the crime of bias intimidation if he commits, attempts to commit, conspires with another to commit, or threatens the immediate commission of [a criminal offense under New Jersey law],

(1) with a purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity; or

(2) knowing that the conduct constituting the offense would cause an individual or group of individuals to be intimidated because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity; or

(3) under circumstances that caused any victim of the underlying offense to be intimidated and the victim, considering the manner in which the offense was committed, reasonably believed either that (a) the offense was committed with a purpose to intimidate the victim or any person or entity in whose welfare the victim is interested because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity, or (b) the victim or the victim’s property was selected to be the target of the offense because of the victim’s race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity.

In sum, the bias intimidation statute essentially makes the discriminatory motive an additional crime, on top of the underlying offense. For example, if a person physically attacks someone because he is gay, then the perpetrator will be charged with the crime of assault, as well as the crime of bias intimidation.

Penalties for Bias Intimidation

The overall effect of a bias intimidation conviction is to increase, by one degree, the punishment for any criminal offense. Thus, a disorderly persons offense becomes a fourth-degree crime, a fourth-degree crime becomes a third-degree crime, and so forth.

Going back to our example above, if the perpetrator committed a third-degree assault, then the perpetrator would also be charged with second-degree bias intimidation. If the perpetrator is convicted of both charges, then he or she will receive punishments for both the third-degree assault and the second-degree bias intimidation.

In addition to fines and jail time, there are also some penalties particular to bias intimidation offenses, including:

  • Classes or programs on sensitivity to diverse communities;
  • Counseling programs intended to reduce the tendency toward violent and antisocial behavior; and
  • Making payments or other compensation to a community-based program or local agency that provides services to victims of bias intimidation.

Mercer County Bias Intimidation Defense Lawyers

If someone you know has been charged with a hate crime, we suggest that they contact the Trenton Office of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall. We are seasoned criminal defense lawyers who have represented a number of clients accused of bias intimidation. Bias intimidation is a serious charge, and the accused must properly protect his or her rights. Hiring an accomplished attorney is one of the most powerful tools to insure success. Call us today and learn about what legal options are available when faced with a bias intimidation charge. A lawyer can be reached 24/7 at (609) 683-8102. You should also know that initial consultations with our attorneys are free so there is no reason to hesitate in obtain our assistance.

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