Sex Crime Defense in Salem County

New Jersey has an aggressive approach to handling sex crimes, not only in Salem County but statewide. Those with allegations or charges levied against them face a resource-rich criminal justice system that won't hesitate to use mandatory minimum sentences or heavy fines.

The consequences are clear, from years behind bars to inclusion on the state's sex offender registry. However, there are still adverse effects even for those whose charges are dropped or later unsubstantiated. Even being alleged to have committed a sex crime can harm personal relationships and one's professional reputation. Therefore, an immediate, robust defense strategy is essential.

When your future is on the line, an experienced attorney is a valuable investment. For a team familiar with and well-known in Salem County, contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 or schedule a consultation online. They understand how New Jersey adjudicates sex crime cases, including how individual nuances may affect various situations. The Lento Law Firm will protect your right to fair legal proceedings and provide a foundation on which you can defend against charges. Salem County prosecutors will work quickly to build a case against you, so act now and contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team.

How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?

Sex crimes committed in Salem County—including statewide—are ranked by the criminal justice system in five categories of legal severity. Crimes will have a "degree of offense" attached to them—first through fourth, including disorderly—as well as a maximum punishment. 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, or life in some cases


Second Degree

5 to 10 years


Third Degree

3 to 5 years


Fourth Degree

18 months



6 months


Given the intimate nature of sex crimes, the severity of any charge will depend on the individual situation. Though, there are some generalizations among offenses.

For instance, sexual assault is usually handled as a second-degree crime or higher. On the other hand, lewdness may be handled as a fourth-degree crime or a disorderly offense. It's crucial that the degree of the crime is validated during the trial phase, and an experienced attorney will understand the boundaries between the degrees, providing you with a starting point for defense.

Understanding Consent Laws

One significant condition of a sex crime is whether there was legal consent between the parties. New Jersey's criminal justice system will differentiate the severity of crimes—like sexual assault versus sexual contact— if the accuser either withholds consent for sexual activities or lacks the legal capacity.

In New Jersey, the following cannot give legal consent to sexual activities:

  • 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 individuals, including those under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

That being said, there is one small distinction for individuals between the ages of 13 and 16. Unless the above factors contribute to the situation, minors 13, 14, 15, or 16 years old may consent to one another.

New Jersey Sex Crimes Statute of Limitations

It's also important to note how long an individual has to report a previous crime. New Jersey—like all other states—maintains a statute of limitations for legal action, including that which manages sex crimes. The statute of limitations establishes the time in which victims must notify law enforcement about an alleged crime, protecting due process for both the accuser and the accused in civil and criminal cases.

Under New Jersey law, 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. If the alleged action occurred when the victim was an adult, the state of limitations is lessened to seven years. New Jersey's approach toward criminal allegations differs. For crimes committed in an aggravated nature—like sexual assault or rape—there is no statute of limitations 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.

New Jersey defines the two as the following:

  • Sexual penetration: "vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse" resulting from inserting a "finger, hand, or object."
  • Sexual contact: 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.

The degree of offense will also depend on other factors. Exclusive to each case are the following:

  1. The victim's age
  2. The age of the accused
  3. Relationship between the parties
  4. Motivations or pre-meditation
  5. Extenuating factors

While there are multiple charges a defendant can face, there are a few more common ones, 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.
  • Sexual Assault: A second-degree offense—also referred to as rape—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.
  • Criminal sexual contact: A fourth-degree crime that requires sexual contact using coercion, but without the use of force or injury to the victim, in other circumstances similar to those that would apply in a sexual assault case.
  • 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—fourth-degree is 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."

Investigation and Trial Procedures

Defendants don't have much time to prepare themselves before the state seeks to handle the charges at hand. In fact, you may only have 24 hours.

New Jersey's Office of the Attorney General has expedited the management of all sex crimes above a third degree. Local authorities are tasked with bringing potential sexual assault cases to the attention of county prosecutors within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

If there are reasonable grounds that the crime occurred, local law enforcement may conduct an arrest. This will kick off the following pretrial steps:

  1. Arraignment—formal reading before a judge of the criminal charges.
  2. Bail—the defendant's conditional release dependent upon reappearing in court on a scheduled date.
  3. Discovery—the defense and prosecution trade information and evidence with each other
  4. Plea negotiations—agreements between the two parties are their representatives for a plea and a punishment less than the legal maximum.
  5. Pretrial motions—attempts to turn over evidence, terminate charges, and address other legal materials and situations.

All of this can be quite overwhelming, especially when it occurs so quickly. This is when a proven defense attorney becomes invaluable. As the pretrial phase begins, emotions may run high, and the vast array of legal complexities can be tough to understand. Moreover, an attorney will be able to provide much-needed representation.

For example, should the Salem County judge decide to take the case to a full criminal trial, the risk to one's reputation and future intensifies. Your attorney can provide evidence and collect witness testimony to support your side of the case, including cross-examining the prosecution. Nevertheless, it's also important to have representation when massive fines and years behind bars are a potential outcome if charges are substantiated.

Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences

The consequences of sex crime convictions will depend heavily on the degree of offense heard during the courtroom proceedings. Typically, sentencing is the presiding judge's responsibility—a grand jury in other cases. Yet, in some instances, incarceration is tacked onto a defendant's punishment, regardless of the judge's decision.

Habitual offenders are required to serve a mandatory minimum sentence. Moreover, it doesn't apply only to crimes committed in New Jersey but can include sex crimes committed elsewhere. Therefore, even if a current sex crime charge is a first in New Jersey if an individual was charged in another state, it would trigger the mandatory minimum sentence law. Habitual offenders must serve a mandatory minimum of five years without the chance for parole. Even judges are unable to reduce the sentence.

Sexual Offender Registry

While many may focus on the potential for jail time and exorbitant fines, some may forget about being labeled a sex offender. Inclusion into New Jersey's publicly available online sex offender registry means anyone with an Internet connection is privy to the information.

The measure isn't for every conviction, but New Jersey's sex offender registry separates individuals into three tiers based on the probability of re-offense and the severity of the crime committed. Every tier will have varying degrees of personal information made accessible to the public, including notification to community groups. 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. Before contesting any accusations or charges related to sexual offenses, it's imperative to consult with a professional team that understands the seriousness of the situation. Protect your future and contact the Lento Law Firm today.

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

If you're subject to allegations or charges related to sexual offenses, the stakes go beyond substantial monetary penalties and potential imprisonment. You also risk enduring severe damage to your reputation, complications in both keeping and acquiring jobs, strained relations with family and friends, and the possible forfeiture of professional accreditations. Even if you are confident in your position, self-representation is ill-advised. Act promptly to engage a competent group of professionals to safeguard your legal interests and champion your defense.

With extensive experience in Salem County and throughout New Jersey, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is ready to work on your defense strategy, prioritizing your due process and best interests. The New Jersey justice system will have a relentless approach to handling sex crimes, so call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 or go online for a consultation today.

​​​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.

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