New Jersey College Student Defense: Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes on New Jersey Campuses

New Jersey college and university campuses ordinarily provide safe, non-threatening environments in which students can engage in productive academic studies. Schools like Rutgers, Montclair State, Kean University, Rowan University, New Jersey City University, and Thomas Edison State University are well-respected institutions generally welcoming to students of all ages, races, abilities, and orientations. But New Jersey and its college and university campuses are not immune to racial, ethnic, and other bias intimidation incidents. U.S. Department of Justice statistics shows hundreds of New Jersey hate crime incidents annually, including incidents involving race, religion, sexual orientation, and disability, and incidents involving either crimes against persons or crimes against property. Some of those incidents, unfortunately, occur on New Jersey college and university campuses. And in today's politically charged environment, students on those campuses may face false, exaggerated, or credible allegations that they engaged in one form of hate crime toward another student or other member of the school community. If you face hate crime allegations on your New Jersey college or university campus, treat those allegations most seriously so that they do not derail your education and future. Retain New Jersey school discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to represent you in both criminal and school disciplinary proceedings.

New Jersey's Hate Crime Law

New Jersey codifies its hate crime law in the "bias intimidation" statute New Jersey Statute 2C:16-1. That statute defines New Jersey's bias intimidation hate crime as committing, attempting to commit, conspiring with another to commit, or threatening to commit any of a large number of underlying crimes, to intimidate a person or group because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity. New Jersey's bias intimidation statute elevates the underlying crime one degree higher than the underlying crime itself defines. In other words, a New Jersey hate crime is not its own crime. Instead, a New Jersey hate crime is a higher degree of one of the many underlying crimes. Bias intimidation makes a fourth-degree crime into a third-degree crime, a third-degree crime into a second-degree crime into a first-degree crime. If the underlying crime is a disorderly persons offense, bias intimidation will raise it to a fourth-degree crime.

New Jersey Bias Intimidation Underlying Crimes

New Jersey's bias intimidation statute, though, doesn't really tell you what actions could support a charge of a New Jersey hate crime. Under New Jersey's bias intimidation statute New Jersey Statute 2C:16-1, the underlying crimes that a person must commit, attempt to commit, conspire to commit, or threaten to commit, to qualify for one higher degree of offense under the bias intimidation statute, include the crimes listed in chapters 11 through 18 of New Jersey Statutes Title 2C or N.J.S.2C:28-4, N.J.S.2C:33-4, N.J.S.2C:39-3, N.J.S.2C:39-4, or N.J.S.2C:39-5. Those statutes define a very wide range of crimes, including murder, manslaughter, vehicular homicide, assault, sexual assault, terroristic threats, stalking, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, criminal coercion, robbery, burglary, arson, criminal mischief, trespass, harassment, prohibited weapons, unlawful weapons possession, and false reports to law enforcement. You can see that threats of many different kinds, such as to injure, offensively touch, restrain, coerce, rob, or harass a person or group, or steal, destroy, damage, or deface property, could qualify as the basis for New Jersey's bias intimidation hate crime. A student wouldn't have to burn a cross or hang a noose to commit a New Jersey hate crime.

Penalties for New Jersey Hate Crimes

Because New Jersey's bias intimidation statute New Jersey Statute 2C:16-1 elevates the underlying offense by one degree, the penalty for a New Jersey hate crime depends on the offense degree of the underlying crime. A disorderly person's offense ordinarily carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, but bias intimidation would elevate the offense one degree to a fourth-degree offense, ordinarily carrying a maximum sentence of eighteen months. Bias intimidation turns a fourth-degree offense into a third-degree offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years. Bias intimidation turns a third-degree offense into a second-degree offense, ordinarily carrying a maximum sentence of ten years, and a second-degree offense into a first-degree offense, ordinarily carrying a maximum sentence of twenty years. The fines also jump one degree. In short, New Jersey hate crime punishments are severe. And the sentencing judge may also require the convicted defendant to take sensitivity classes, receive counseling, and make victim payments. Take hate crime allegations and criminal charges most seriously. Get the skilled and experienced representation you need for your best defense.

New Jersey Hate Crime Investigation and Prosecution

New Jersey law enforcement officials are on the lookout for hate crimes. Law enforcement officials are generally well aware that hate crime can get substantial public attention and deserves aggressive law enforcement. Thus, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office encourages citizens to report hate crimes, including such things as racially-motivated graffiti, threats of physical harm, and infliction of property damage or bodily injury. The Office's Division of Criminal Justice also maintains a Bias Crime Unit to coordinate statewide efforts to efforts to eliminate crimes motivated by prejudice based on race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, and national origin. The Bias Crime Unit even offers rewards up to $25,000 for information leading to convictions of hate crimes. Don't expect hate crime victims or state and local law enforcement to look the other way, ignoring hate crimes. Instead, expect aggressive public law enforcement.

New Jersey Campus Investigation of Hate Crime

You can also expect campus police to aggressively investigate allegations of campus hate crime and university disciplinary officials to aggressively pursue hate crime school disciplinary charges. The federal Clery Act requires New Jersey colleges and universities receiving federal funding to publish campus safety policies and report campus crime statistics. Campus police forces help those schools fulfill their Clery Act and other public and private duties to prevent and punish hate crimes. Rutgers, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, Stockton University, and Rowan University, for a few of many other examples, all maintain campus police departments. School officials receiving student and instructor complaints of hate crimes will ensure that campus police help school disciplinary officials investigate the allegations and support appropriate disciplinary charges. Campus police may also cooperate with local and state law enforcement officials for the prosecution of campus students in the local criminal courts. New Jersey student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is your best choice for defending hate crime charges both within your school and in the local criminal courts.

Defending New Jersey Criminal Hate Crime Charges

Hate crime criminal charges can be difficult for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, as constitutional law generally requires. If you face New Jersey hate crime charges, skilled and experienced criminal defense representation may help you defeat those charges. Conviction is not a foregone conclusion. The prosecutor may instead abandon the charges, the judge may dismiss the charges, or a jury may acquit on the charges, especially if you retain premier New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you achieve your best possible outcome. One reason why hate crime charges can be difficult to prove is that evidence of the defendant's bias may be in dispute. New Jersey Statute 2C:16-1 makes bias intimidation a specific intent crime, meaning the prosecution has to prove the defendant's guilty state of mind. Proving state of mind is often problematic because the prosecution must rely on circumstantial evidence. No lab test or other objective measurement exists for a subjective state of mind. And if bias evidence is clearly present, the defendant may not have committed an underlying offense supporting the charge.

New Jersey Criminal Procedures and Hate Crime Charges

New Jersey, like other states, offers defendants facing criminal charges elaborate protective procedures to disprove hate crime charges. The Constitution requires states to provide criminal defendants with due process of law, incorporating Bill of Rights protections against things like unreasonable search and seizure, prosecutor or police misconduct, and juror racial or sexual bias. A skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney can use protective procedures like an arraignment, preliminary examination, discovery of prosecution evidence, pretrial motions to suppress, and confrontation and cross-examination of adverse witnesses at trial to help you defend and defeat hate crime charges. New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's criminal defense team can strategically deploy these procedures for their best effect while presenting exonerating and mitigating evidence to advocate for the prosecutor's voluntary dismissal or plea bargain and reduction of hate crime charges. Your criminal charges may also qualify for New Jersey's Pretrial Intervention (PTI) or Pretrial Diversion program. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's criminal defense team may also appeal a wrongful conviction. Skilled and experienced representation can help you obtain your best outcome.

New Jersey College and University Hate Crime Policies

New Jersey law defines hate crime very broadly but also very specifically. By contrast, New Jersey colleges and universities publish their own student codes of conduct that may define hate violations broadly but ambiguously. Rutgers University's Policy Prohibiting Harassment, for example, prohibits any conduct toward a person or group that creates an offensive environment. Rutgers encourages bias incident reporting and sends Bias Response Teams to investigate and report on hate crime allegations, including recommending sanctions and other resolutions. For another example, Montclair State University's Code of Conduct broadly prohibits any act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying and then warns that "[v]iolations of the Code of Student Conduct that can be proven to have been motivated by illegal bias will result in the imposition of more severe sanctions." Other New Jersey colleges and universities have similar policies against harassment and intimidation. As college and university bias incident response teams clearly indicate, hate crime is a very sensitive subject on New Jersey college and university campuses, against which the schools will take aggressive action to charge and discipline offending students.

New Jersey Campus Hate Crime Disciplinary Procedures

Fortunately, New Jersey colleges and universities cannot generally discipline a student based on hate crime allegations without first affording the student constitutional or contractual due process. New Jersey colleges and universities routinely offer the accused student protective disciplinary procedures, like those at Montclair State University. While those procedures are not nearly as elaborate or well defined as criminal court procedures, a skilled and experienced academic administrative attorney can nonetheless strategically invoke those procedures to help you obtain your best possible outcome to school disciplinary charges. Those procedures typically include written notice of the charges, informal resolution conferences, disclosure of the investigation report for the accused student's comment and correction, and a formal hearing of disputed charges, at which the student and retained attorney representative may have some opportunity to question or even cross-examine adverse witnesses.

Appeals and Special Relief from School Hate Crime Charges

Students accused of campus hate crimes or other serious wrongs sometimes fail to consult and retain a qualified student discipline defense attorney until after they have already lost all hearings. New Jersey school discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento may be able to help you appeal your school's finding that you committed a hate crime and your school sanction, even your expulsion. If you have already lost your appeal, then attorney Lento may be able to use his national reputation and network to help you obtain alternative special relief through your New Jersey college or university's general counsel, outside retained counsel, or other oversight office. Litigation can be another option, but first, retain attorney Lento to investigate and negotiate alternative special relief. Attorney Lento may be able to help you preserve your valuable New Jersey college or university education against hate crime charges.

New Jersey Hate Crime Student Defense Attorney

New Jersey student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skills and experience you need for both criminal court defense and school discipline defense of hate crime charges. You can trust attorney Lento because he has successfully represented hundreds of college and university students nationwide against all kinds of misconduct charges. Contact attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go online.

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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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