Being subject to sex crime allegations or charges can be among the most intimidating ordeals anyone could face. These charges transcend any specific personal profile and can impact individuals from various backgrounds without regard to age, educational level, profession, or financial standing. There is one similarity, however. If a defendant is standing before a Burlington County, New Jersey judge, they need professional representation to exercise their right to a fair criminal defense.
Mounting a challenge against sexual offenses is a formidable undertaking, often compounded by heightened emotional factors, such as ties with friends, family, and community members. Even when charges are dismissed, dropped, or a defendant is exonerated, just the accusations themselves can leave an enduring mark on one's character. Should the charges be substantiated, though, the fallout is even greater. Large financial fines and extensive incarceration are common, as well as inclusion in New Jersey's publicly-available online sex offender registry.
To build a solid and compelling defense, reach out to the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team. He and his team understand the gravity of sex crime charges, including case-by-case nuances that may arise. Our team will represent you, exercising your right to due process to ensure your reputation is protected. Burlington County will act quickly to build a case against you, so act fast and call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or go online now.
How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?
Sex crimes will fall into one of five categories. New Jersey's legal classifications—or degrees—include the following:
- First-Degree Offense: Maximum Incarceration of 10 to 20 years and a maximum fine of up to $200,000
- Second-Degree Offense: Maximum Incarceration of 5 to 10 years and a maximum fine of up to $150,000
- Third-Degree Offense: Maximum Incarceration of 3 to 5 years and a maximum fine of up to $15,000
- Fourth-Degree Offense: Maximum Incarceration of 18 months and a maximum fine of up to $10,000
- Disorderly Offense: Maximum Incarceration of 6 months and a maximum fine of up to $1,000
Although each matter is handled individually depending upon the facts of the case, first-degree sex crimes in New Jersey often involve those of an aggravated nature. For instance, aggravated sexual assault. More minor crimes like indecent behavior or lewdness will typically be designated as fourth-degree crimes and disorderly offenses, respectively.
New Jersey is pushing an expedited method to manage sex crimes. According to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, local authorities must relay all sex crime charges above the third degree to prosecutors within 24 hours, who will have full supervisory approval.
Understanding the Age of Consent
Sexual offenses recognized as assault or contact transpire when the person involved either withholds consent for the sexual act or isn't legally eligible to grant such approval. In New Jersey, those with mental or physical impairments, the unconscious, and individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot legally give consent. When it comes strictly to age, though, individuals younger than 16 lack the capacity to render consent under the law. Moreover, those who are under 18 are forbidden from participating in sexual activities with someone in a position of parental, guardian, or supervising authority over them.
For minors, there is one critical distinction. Consent laws don't include individuals aged between 13 and 16, as long as the sexual associate is not older by four or more years. For example, a consensual sexual engagement between a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old would not be classified as illegal.
New Jersey Sex Crimes Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the timeframe during which a sexual offense can be reported. It fosters prompt legal intervention but also guarantees that the defendant is treated fairly. New Jersey has tailored its rules to allow extended periods for different situations.
For civil charges related to more financial matters, New Jersey's N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2 gives victims who allege sexual offenses as children 37 years after reaching the age of majority—18 years old—to file. Adult plaintiffs are given seven years, starting the moment they recognize a civil claim related to a previous sexual offense.
Criminal charges are different. New Jersey has nullified any time constraints for measures against sexual assault, rape, and crimes with an aggravated motivation. Additionally, there's no time limit for legal proceedings when the person impacted was a minor during the offense. Therefore, prosecution can be initiated without regard to how much time has passed.
Some may believe they can handle instances of sex crimes without the judicial system. But it's important to note that New Jersey's laws deter individuals from attempting to manage or settle such matters privately, explaining that "any private, contractual arrangement intending to settle claims...shall be void and unenforceable."
Common Sex Offenses in New Jersey
A pivotal aspect in understanding sex crimes is the nature of the crime alleged. For example, the law will differentiate between acts involving sexual penetration and those of sexual contact. Such distinctions could mean the difference between a crime of the third degree and one of the first degree.
As stated in N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, sexual penetration involves "vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse" resulting from inserting a finger, hand, or object. Sexual contact is committed when the accused intentionally touches the victim's "intimate parts" either directly or through clothing. Acts of sexual contact are committed to degrade or humiliate the victim or for sexual arousal or gratification.
The degree or level of the offense will be determined by a myriad of factors, such as the age of the individuals involved, the specifics of the act, and the relationship between the alleged perpetrator and the victim, among others. Below are some common examples with their associated legal classifications.
Aggravated sexual assault
- N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a): A first-degree crime involving sexual penetration with someone under the age of 13, with someone between 13 and 16 if the defendant had a familial relationship with the complainant or disciplinary power over the complainant, with someone during the course of another crime, or using force that produced an injury or with threatened force using a weapon.
- N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b)-(c): A second-degree crime—also known as sexual assault—involving sexual penetration through the use of physical force or coercion—without physical harm—when the accuser is physically or mentally incapacitated or under the defendant's legal control or supervision.
Aggravated criminal sexual contact
- N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(b): A third-degree crime involving sexual contact after coercion or force that leads to a physical injury to the accuser or with certain minors.
- N.J.S.A 2C:14-4(b): A fourth-degree crime involving exposing intimate parts for the purpose of sexual gratification when the defendant reasonably knows that they will be seen either by a child under 13, certain minors depending on the age of the defendant, or by someone with a mental incapacity that makes them unable to understand the sexual nature of the exposure.
- N.J.S.A 2C:14-4(a): A disorderly offense involving any act in which the defendant reasonably expects is likely to be observed by "nonconsenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed." When committed against accusers below the age of 13 or minors if the alleged perpetrator is four years older, lewdness is a fourth-degree offense.
Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences
The severity with which a sexual offense is classified plays a vital role in the legal outcome. Repeated offenses will have severe implications on sentencing. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-6, if an individual faces charges and is subsequently found guilty of a second sex crime, it is seen as a pattern, establishing habitual conduct. Even if it's a person's first charge in New Jersey, an earlier conviction from another state can lead to a lengthened sentence. Those deemed habitual offenders are met with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, with no possibility for parole within that period, and the court lacks the authority to alter this preset sentence by decreasing or suspending it.
While certain situations may allow for a reduction in the prison term for particular cases, under the provisions of New Jersey's "No Early Release Act," some individuals must serve at least 85 percent of their designated sentence before being eligible for release. Specifically, those found guilty of certain crimes, including aggravated sexual assault or offenses involving minors, are governed by the sentencing guidelines set out in N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2.
Sexual Offender Registry
As previously stated, minor violations typically lead to smaller fines and shorter periods of imprisonment, and in many instances, they may not require any jail time and be handled with probation or other rehabilitation techniques. Yet, there is an often-overlooked consequence for those who are convicted of sex crimes.
People who are found guilty of particular offenses are required to register as sex offenders, but only those convicted of the crimes identified under N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2. Additionally, the system differentiates those registered into three tiers, each of which is based on the evaluated probability of committing another sex crime in the future. Each of these categories affects how much information is made accessible to the public. Some examples of convictions that call for registration include the following:
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact
- Criminal sexual contact against a minor
- Endangering the welfare of a child through sexual contact, pornography, or prostitution
- Luring, enticing, kidnapping, criminal restraint, and false imprisonment of a minor
Even if individuals don't have to have their current address posted on the New Jersey Sex Offender Internet Registry, lower-tier classifications may have obligations to inform local law enforcement of their presence in specific regions.
How New Jersey's Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team Can Help You
When allegations or charges of sex crimes are levied against you, you will face possible legal consequences, image tarnishing, challenges securing employment, strained personal connections, and the potential loss of professional certifications or licensures. Even if you're confident in your side of the story, defending yourself alone in a courtroom shouldn't be done. The risk to your future is too high.
Burlington County vigorously pursues sex crimes using comprehensive techniques to investigate, adjudicate, and penalize those accused. Having skilled and unswerving legal aid from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is crucial for safeguarding your reputation and liberty.
With extensive experience in Burlington County and throughout New Jersey, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is ready to stand with you, offering a robust, well-planned defense that prioritizes your rights and overall welfare. In the absence of a strong legal team, you are exposed to the risk of severe prison terms, hefty monetary fines, and lasting damage to your character and life. Call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 or go online today.