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Understanding New Jersey’s bias intimidation law

On Behalf of | Aug 6, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Most people have heard of hate crime laws. Here in New Jersey, we have a crime that’s called “bias intimidation,” which is our version of a hate crime charge. 

A person needs to commit an underlying offense to be charged with bias intimidation. For example, recently a woman was arrested in Mount Laurel after she allegedly directed racial slurs at a motel front desk employee as she threw various objects, including a container of sanitizing fluid, at her. The incident was caught on surveillance video. In addition to bias intimidation, she was also charged with harassment, disorderly conduct and assault.

What kind of biases are covered under the law?

Bias intimidation refers to intentional intimidation of a person or group based on their:

  • Disability
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Gender identity or expression
  • National origin
  • Race or color
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

If the victim wasn’t actually a member of the protected class the alleged perpetrator thought they belonged to, that cannot be used as a defense. 

What are the penalties for bias intimidation?

Bias intimidation isn’t always the same degree of crime. It depends on the seriousness of the underlying offense. If a person pleads guilty or is convicted, courts are required to impose separate sentences for bias intimidation and any underlying offense(s).

In addition to fines and possible incarceration, a person who’s guilty of bias intimidation may also be required to complete a program on diversity sensitivity, undergo counseling and pay compensation to a local agency or community program that helps victims of bias intimidation.

Some people who are charged with bias intimidation let their temper get the better of them, sometimes due to intoxication or extreme stress. They may lash out with words and insults they wouldn’t normally use. That doesn’t excuse their actions in the eyes of the law.

Are you facing charges related to bias intimidation?

Whatever the situation, if you find yourself facing charges, it’s wise to take them seriously and to seek legal guidance to protect your rights and determine your best course of action.