Sex Crime Defense in Ocean County

Being accused or charged with sex crimes is one of the worst situations an individual can face. The New Jersey Criminal Justice System applies an uncompromising approach to managing allegations. However local courts like those in Ocean County will investigate, adjudicate, and punish criminal activity. Defendants will face a court that will not hesitate to levy the maximum penalties under state law, which include fines measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, decades behind bars, and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

However, even when charges are dropped or unsubstantiated, individuals can experience ridicule for being associated with allegations of sex crimes, harming personal relationships and professional reputations. Ocean County will begin building its case once charges are filed, so an immediate defense is crucial.

When your future is on the line, a proven attorney is a valuable investment. For a team familiar with and well-known in Ocean County, call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686. They understand how New Jersey adjudicates sex crime cases, including how unique situations may affect various aspects of the process. Contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team to assert your right to fair legal proceedings and a foundation on which you can defend against charges.

How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?

The way in which the New Jersey Criminal Justice System will handle crimes first depends on the seriousness of the offense. The state has five categories of crimes, from a disorderly offense—the lowest legal severity—to a first-degree crime—the highest. Another differentiator between the degrees of offense is minimum and maximum punishments, often including incarceration and fines. The following is how New Jersey will punish a crime given its degree of offense:

Degree of Offense

Maximum Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

First Degree

10 to 20 years


Second Degree

5 to 10 years


Third Degree

3 to 5 years


Fourth Degree

18 months


Disorderly Offense

6 months


While sex crimes can be ranked in any category, there are some general assumptions given various situations. For example, sexual assault is typically a second-degree charge, and indecent exposure is usually a fourth-degree charge. Yet, each charge will depend on the facts of each individual case.

Understanding Consent Laws

One of the major points of New Jersey's case against a defendant will hedge on whether there was consent between the parties in question. Consent can mean a difference in the degree of offense, and the investigation will uncover whether the accuser withheld consent during the act or may have consented but lacked the legal capacity to do so.

The ability to legally give consent depends heavily on age. New Jersey states that once an individual reaches 16, they are able to legally grant consent to sexual activity with an adult. However, there is a caveat for those between 13 and 16. Unless intoxicated or unconscious, individuals within those age ranges may consent to each other.

Regardless, in nearly all cases, New Jersey maintains the following cannot give legal consent to sexual acts:

  • Minors under the age of 16.
  • Minors over 16 when the consenting party has any supervisory authority over them.
  • Some individuals with severe mental or physical capacities.
  • Unconscious or intoxicated individuals.

What determines consent—an agreement to engage in sexual acts with one or more persons—can be unique to each case. Building the explanation and defense for what the parties involved considered consent is a complex and multifaceted strategy. It's also an overwhelming task for those without a professional understanding of statutes and legal arguments.

New Jersey Sex Crimes Statute of Limitations

Each state maintains regulations setting the timeframe within which an individual must report a crime for it to be taken to the courts. New Jersey upholds a statute of limitations for legal action, which protects due process for both the accuser and the accused in any case that enters the New Jersey Criminal Justice System.

Sex crime victims have 37 years beyond the age of majority—18 years old—to file a civil suit if the alleged action happened when the victim was a minor, meaning up until the victim is 55 years old. For those who levy accusations from an event occurring when they were already an adult, the statute of limitations is lowered to seven years.

New Jersey handles criminal action much differently. Whereas in civil cases, the defendant is responsible to the accuser, in criminal cases, the defendant is accountable to the state. There is no statute of limitations for criminal cases of sexual assault in New Jersey, applicable to both minors and adults.

Common Sex Offenses in New Jersey

Some of the important terms and charges supported within the New Jersey criminal justice system will identify not only the action but also its level of intimacy. Critically, there is a line of demarcation between acts involving sexual penetration and sexual contact. The variation between these two categories could result in an allegation classified as either a third-degree or a first-degree charge.

Under New Jersey law, sexual penetration is defined as "vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse" resulting from inserting a "finger, hand, or object." Sexual contact is explained as "intentionally" touching the victim's "intimate parts" either directly or through clothing, committed to degrade or humiliate the victim or for "sexual arousal or gratification."

While there are multiple types of offenses a defendant can face, there are a few more common sex crime charges in New Jersey, like the following:

  • Aggravated sexual assault: A first-degree crime characterized by sexual penetration of a victim under the age of 13, with an individual between 13 and 16 if a familial or supervisory relationship exists, an act committed during the course of an additional crime, an act committed with or under the threat of force with a weapon, or leads to injury.
  • Rape: A second-degree offense—also referred to as sexual assault—involving sexual penetration with physical force or coercion—but without injury—when the victim is incapacitated or under the defendant's legal control or supervision.
  • Aggravated criminal sexual contact: A third-degree crime involving sexual contact after coercion or force that leads to a physical injury to the accuser or with certain minors.
  • Indecent exposure: A fourth-degree offense typically involving the exposure of intimate body parts for sexual gratification when the defendant reasonably knows that they will be seen either by a child under 13, certain minors, or by someone with an incapacity that makes them unable to understand the act's sexual nature.
  • Lewdness: A disorderly offense involving a minor under the age of 13—involving any act in which the defendant reasonably expects is likely to be observed by "nonconsenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed."

Factors unique to each case will also influence the charge and the degree of offense. For sex crimes, the following are significant aspects of how the state will view the situation:

  • Age of the accuser and defendant
  • The relationship between the accuser and defendant, or lack thereof
  • Motivations behind the act
  • Other factors, such as aggravation or pre-meditation

Moreover, with the above information, local police may have reasonable grounds to make an arrest. With New Jersey's expedited sex crime management policy, local authorities are tasked with bringing cases above a third-degree offense to county prosecutors within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

Investigation and Trial Procedures

When an arrest occurs, it will kick off the following common pretrial steps:

  1. Arraignment: This will be a formal reading of the defendants' charges before a judge.
  2. Bail: Typically during arraignment, the judge will decide on a monetary value to be paid as a conditional release of the defendant, with the promise of reappearing in court on a scheduled date.
  3. Discovery: At this stage, the defense and prosecution will trade information and evidence with each other to prepare for courtroom arguments that will uphold or dispute the defendant's stance.
  4. Plea negotiations: To avoid a punishment less than the legal maximum, an agreement may be made between the two parties and their representation.
  5. Other pretrial motions: Each case is unique, and so are some of the legal situations that can occur before a trial begins. This could include attempts to turn over evidence, advocating for terminating charges or addressing other case matters.

Going through these steps and everything else the New Jersey Criminal Justice System has to charge defendants can be overwhelming. And that's not to mention one of the overlooked aspects of sex crime charges.

Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences

The consequences of sex crime convictions will depend heavily on the degree of offense tried during the courtroom proceedings. Sentencing is usually the presiding judge's duty—a grand jury in some circumstances—but sometimes, a particular punishment can be levied without the judge in mind.

In New Jersey, habitual offenders—those already charged and convicted of a sex crime—must serve a mandatory minimum sentence of five years without the chance for parole. Critically, a defendant's initial charge does not have to be in New Jersey. Therefore, past and current convictions from other states will influence sentencing, and even judges are unable to vie for reductions.

Sexual Offender Registry

While many defendants may focus on the potential for incarceration and steep fines, some forget about being labeled a sex offender when they re-enter public life. But defendants don't have to be convicted of the most severe sex crime. If the court determines there could be a possibility of re-offense based on the facts of the case, they will be included on New Jersey's publicly available online sex offender registry.

The registry separates individuals into three tiers. Each tier is based on the probability of re-offense and is also tied to the severity of the crime committed. Tiers have varying degrees of personal information made accessible to the public, including notification to community groups when the individual is in certain areas. For example, the following:

  • Tier 1 "low risk": Law enforcement notified.
  • Tier 2 "moderate risk": law enforcement, schools, and community organizations notified.
  • Tier 3 "high risk": Law enforcement, schools, community organizations, and members of the public likely to encounter the registrant are notified.

In many cases, placement on the registry will make pursuing a career tough and sometimes even moving to a different area. Therefore, before contesting any accusations or charges related to sexual offenses, it's imperative to consult with a team that understands the seriousness of New Jersey sex crimes.

How New Jersey's Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team Can Help You

If you're accused of committing or charged with sex crimes, the threat to your future goes beyond monetary penalties and potential imprisonment. You also risk enduring severe damage to your reputation, creating adversity in both keeping and acquiring jobs and the possible forfeiture of professional accreditations, grants, and leadership positions. Act fast to safeguard your legal interests and champion your defense with the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team.

With extensive knowledge of Ocean County and New Jersey itself, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is prepared to craft and implement your defense strategy, prioritizing your right to due process and a fair trial. The New Jersey justice system will have a relentless approach to handling sex crimes, so call Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 or go online to schedule a consultation.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

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.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.