Presenting yourself before a Camden judge as a defendant can be quite intimidating. But when you're defending yourself against allegations or charges of sex crimes, representing your side of the story can be marred by various facets of the New Jersey criminal justice system. While the state sets all laws related to sex crimes, prosecution is handled by localities, and all address allegations harshly.
Camden's local prosecutors have authority from the state to take an aggressive, fast-paced approach to convict those alleged to have committed sex crimes. Yet, the intimidation factor continues further with what defendants face in punishments:
- Maximum fines measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Maximum jail time measured in decades.
- Registration as a New Jersey sex offender.
However, even if Camden prosecutors fail to substantiate charges or the accuser drops them, the threats to a defendant's future don't end there. Unfortunately, those accused of sex crimes often face public ridicule, and the challenges from investigations into sex crime allegations themselves can disturb one's career and personal relationships. Therefore, the need for immediate assistance couldn't be more prevalent.
When you're up against sex crime allegations or charges in Camden, a valuable investment in your future is the knowledgeable team of attorneys at the Lento Law Firm. Our Criminal Defense Team recognizes how New Jersey's localities investigate, adjudicate, and punish sex crimes. We understand the particular nuances in every case and how they may influence the criminal and civil processes and provide the basis of a solid defense. To assert your right to fair legal proceedings and create a sound strategy, contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team online or call 888-535-3686 now.
How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?
One of the primary factors in sex crime cases is how the New Jersey justice system ranks a particular charge. The state categorizes offenses that range from the most severe (first-degree) to the least severe (disorderly offense). Each degree or level of offense also carries with it a minimum and maximum punishment allowed under the law. Below is a general overview:
Degree of Offense
Maximum Incarceration Period
10 to 20 years
5 to 10 years
3 to 5 years
The charge level will depend on the facts of any case, which Camden law enforcement officials determine. However, there are some generalizations, like the fact that New Jersey localities typically handle sexual assault as a second-degree charge and lewdness as a disorderly offense.
Motivations behind the alleged crimes or the ways in which they were carried out are noteworthy aspects that will influence the degree of the offense. If Camden prosecutors suspect aggravation or pre-meditation is involved, they will take that into account when assessing charges, which may lead an original second-degree offense to be charged as a first-degree offense.
Understanding Consent Laws
Camden prosecutors will also work to determine the nature of consent in regard to the alleged sex crime. Each state maintains consent laws to establish what must be fulfilled in a mutual agreement to engage in sexual acts—in this case, between the accuser and the defendant.
In New Jersey, individuals aged 16 and above can legally consent to an adult, and the following may not: Anyone under the age of 16.
- Minors over 16 when the consenting party maintains guardianship or legal supervisory authority over them.
- Individuals with severe mental or physical capacities limiting their ability to grant consent.
- Unconscious or intoxicated individuals unable to communicate consent.
There is a slight caveat in the state's consent laws for those aged 13 to 16. Those within that age span may consent to each other unless otherwise unconscious, intoxicated, or have a disability that would leave them unable to grant consent.
Statute of Limitations
New Jersey's statute of limitations ensures due process is protected for all parties in civil and criminal matters. For civil cases, accusers have up to 37 years beyond the age of majority—18 years old—to claim financial damage for a sex-related allegation that occurred when the victim was a minor. For adult victims, the statute of limitations is just seven years from when the act happened.
In criminal cases, the defendant is no longer just accountable to the accused but to the state, which is demonstrated through different timeframes. For cases involving sexual assault, New Jersey has no statute of limitations whether or not the victim was a minor or an adult. For criminal sexual contact, it's five years, with the time limit beginning when the accuser turns 18 or within two years of their discovery of the crime.
How the Level of Intimacy Affects New Jersey Sex Crime Charges
Intimacy between the defendant and the accuser in the commission of a sexual crime also serves as a point of significance. New Jersey maintains a staunch threshold between acts involving sexual penetration and sexual contact, with the former regarded as more legally severe than the latter. Although every case is different, the distinction could mean the difference between a first-degree charge and a third-degree charge.
New Jersey defines sexual penetration as "vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse" resulting from inserting a "finger, hand, or object." Sexual contact is "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."
Common Sex Offenses in New Jersey
There are many legal terms and charges used within the confines of the New Jersey criminal justice system. While there are multiple types of offenses a defendant can face, there are a few more common sex crime charges, like those listed below:
- Aggravated sexual assault: A first-degree crime defined 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 injures the victim.
- 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."
Regardless of whether Camden prosecutors are handling charges of indecent exposure of aggravated sexual assault, expect them to begin their investigation immediately. Once local law enforcement has information that a sexual crime may have occurred by witness reports or the alleged victim coming forward, they will begin establishing whether they have reasonable grounds to make an arrest.
Investigation and Trial Procedures
With New Jersey's expedited sex crime management policy, local authorities are tasked with forwarding sex crime cases above a third-degree offense to prosecutors within 24 hours. After the accused is taken into custody, they may find themselves engaged in the following judicial procedures:
- Arraignment: Defendants must appear before a Camden judge for a formal reading of the charges, including their rights throughout the process.
- Bail: If applicable, the defendant is released until the trial begins through an agreement between the defendant and the court system, usually as a sum of money paid as a promise to reappear.
- Discovery: Before the trial, both parties and their legal counsel will collect evidence and trade information to prepare for arguments in front of a judge or grand jury.
- Other pretrial actions: Each sex crime case is unique, as are some of the legal situations that can occur before a trial. This could be disqualifying evidence, advocating for dropping charges, plea negotiations, and addressing other various case matters.
Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences
The consequences of sex crime convictions will depend heavily on the degree of offense heard by the court and the sentence handed down by the presiding judge. Although the judge has the authority to impose all punishments allowed within the confines of New Jersey law, sometimes punishments are tacked on automatically.
Habitual offenders must serve a five-year mandatory minimum sentence without the chance for parole. Critically, to be classified as a habitual offender in New Jersey, someone's first charge does not have to be related to New Jersey in any way or even have been a sex crime. All convictions in other states will influence the sentencing process, and mandatory minimum sentences for sex crimes are ineligible for reduction by a judge.
Sexual Offender Registry
Individuals facing sex crime charges in Camden don't just have to pay exorbitant fines and endure jail time upon conviction. Many must register as a New Jersey sex offender.
Inclusion into the state's online sex offender registry is not based on one's conviction but on the probability of re-offense. New Jersey's registry has three tiers ranked by the probability of re-offense, which is based on numerous factors. Depending on which level—also known as tiers—offenders are placed in, they will have varying degrees of their personal information listed online and available to the public. Listings will include an individual's place of residence, general physical characteristics, and their convictions.
The registry will also provide notification to community groups when the offender is in various areas. Corresponding with the assessed risk of re-offense, the following groups are notified based on the tier system.
- Tier 1 (low risk): Law enforcement.
- Tier 2 (moderate risk): Law enforcement, schools, and community organizations.
- Tier 3 (high risk): Law enforcement, schools, community organizations, and members of the public that are likely to encounter the registrant.
Being listed on the registry is not only a burden for one's social and familial life, but it may also cause challenges to professional pursuits and affect standing with professional licensing boards. Because of the risk to your future, before contesting allegations or charges of sex crimes, it's essential to consult with a team that understands how New Jersey localities like Camden handle sex crimes.
How New Jersey's Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team Can Help You
If you face allegations or charges of sex crimes, the threat to your livelihood begins immediately. Camden prosecutors will waste no time in building a case against you. With the potential for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, decades of incarceration, and being publicly known as a sex offender, you risk a lifetime's worth of severe damage. Therefore, act fast and make a worthwhile move to protect your right to a fair trial with the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team.
Well-known in Camden and throughout New Jersey, the Lento Law Firm is prepared to build and implement your defense strategy, prioritizing your right to due process and the opportunity to assert your side of the story. The New Jersey criminal justice system and courts of Camden will have a relentless approach to handling sex crimes, so you need to make the investment in your future and contact a team that stands waiting to help. Call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 now or go online to schedule a consultation.