Sex Crime Defense in Freehold Borough

Being charged with a sex crime in Freehold Borough, New Jersey, can turn your life upside down. The potential penalties for a conviction can be extremely severe; the publicity that comes with being accused of a sex crime can shadow you for years to come even if you're never charged or are acquitted; and for certain crimes, you'll be required to register publicly as a sex offender, even where you may not have to serve a jail term. That's why if you have been accused or charged with a sex crime, you need to contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys understand what you're going through and know the law in New Jersey and the court system in Monmouth County, where Freehold is the county seat. Call us today at 888.535.3686 or use our contact form to set up a confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help you protect your rights.

One of the challenges when defending yourself against sex crime allegations is the fact that many people will rush to judge you even before charges are filed, and if charges are filed, you'll be presumed guilty in the court of public opinion. Fortunately, the courts in Freehold operate on different standards, and you're considered innocent until proven otherwise. But until that happens, you need a strong, experienced, effective criminal defense attorney who can help make sure your rights are protected and who can help you deal with adverse publicity that comes from being accused or charged.

Another problem with being charged with a serious sex crime is that it can be difficult to secure bail. Judges may refuse bail or set the bail amount at a level you can't afford. Retaining one of the experienced attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help make it more likely that you'll be released pending any trial in your case, and you won't have to spend weeks or months in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution waiting for your day in court.

How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?

New Jersey has five levels of sex crimes. Unlike many other states, New Jersey doesn't classify sex crimes as “felonies” or “misdemeanors.” Instead, it uses the following grading system:

  • First-degree offenses are the most serious ones. If you're convicted of a first-degree sex crime, you may have to pay a fine of up to $200,000 and may be sentenced to prison for 10 to 20 years or, for extremely serious sex crimes, for up to a life term.
  • Second-degree offenses are the next most serious crimes. These carry a potential fine of up to $150,000 and a prison term of 5 to 10 years.
  • Third-degree offenses come next. A conviction here can result in you having to pay a fine of as much as $15,000 and being imprisoned for 3 to 5 years.
  • Fourth-degree offenses come with a potential fine of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months of jail time.
  • Disorderly offenses are the least serious, but you could still be fined up to $1000 and jailed for up to 6 months.

What level of sex crime you may be charged with will vary significantly depending on the situation. It will, of course, depend heavily on what the accusations against you are, but it will also depend on the evidence that police and prosecutors have against you. In some cases, the accusations will be more serious than the resulting charges simply because prosecutors may not have admissible evidence to support all of the accusations that the alleged victim is making against you.

Understanding the Age of Consent

New Jersey has fairly complicated laws when it comes to defining when someone is able to consent to sexual contact and when they're not. It's important to understand that different consent laws can apply in different situations. Here is a summary of what the New Jersey laws are when it comes to consent:

  • A child under the age of 13 is considered unable to consent to any sexual contact.
  • A child aged 13 through 15 cannot consent to sexual contact with an adult, but may be able to consent to sexual contact with a child who is up to 3 years older.
  • The statutory age of consent in New Jersey is 16. However, a child aged 16 or 17 cannot legally consent to sexual contact with a close relative or someone who has authority over them, such as a teacher.
  • Students aged 18 to 21 who are still in high school cannot consent to having sexual contact with a teacher or a school employee.
  • In any case, at any age, if someone is considered to be “intellectually or mentally incapacitated” or if they are “physically helpless or incapacitated,” they are not able to give their consent to sexual contact. This issue arises in many cases where the alleged victim says they had been using alcohol or drugs to the extent that they were not able to consent to the alleged sexual contact.

Consent questions depend heavily on the facts of the particular situation. Even where age is not an issue, two people involved in a sexual encounter may have very different views about how it came about and whether both were able to and did consent to the sexual contact. This is why you need the help of an experienced attorney from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team if you've been accused of any kind of sex crime. We understand the New Jersey laws that apply in these cases and can help you defend yourself and protect your rights.

New Jersey Sex Crime Statue of Limitations

As you may know, there is something called the statute of limitations that applies to many crimes. These vary depending on the crime, but generally speaking, they are laws that prevent someone from being charged with a crime after a certain number of years have passed. For some very serious crimes – including certain serious sex crimes – New Jersey has no statute of limitations, meaning that anyone can be prosecuted for serious sex crimes that happened decades ago.

Stautes of limitations exist for civil lawsuits as well. Generally, these range from 3 to 7 years, depending on what the person is suing for, but where someone is suing because they claim to have been sexually assaulted as a child, New Jersey has a 37-year statute of limitations. This is meant to allow someone who has recently recovered memories of a childhood sexual assault or has recently learned about it through other ways to sue the alleged perpetrator decades after the assault is claimed to have taken place. The statute of limitations for civil suits based on sexual assault of an adult is seven years. Civil cases can have important criminal consequences because it's not unusual for a civil suit based on an allegation that the plaintiff was sexually assaulted as a child to result in a criminal investigation and potential prosecution of the defendant.

Types of Sex Offenses in New Jersey

New Jersey has a number of different levels and types of crimes that can be classified as sex crimes. One important distinction that defines the more serious crimes is whether “sexual penetration” has occurred versus “sexual contact.” Both terms are ones that are defined in New Jersey law, and these and other defined terms are used by prosecutors in Freehold when deciding what to charge a defendant in a sex crime case.

  • course, the facts of the particular case matter when charges are brought. Prosecutors will consider:
  • The victim's age
  • The victim's mental capacity or mental state when the alleged sex crime took place
  • If the alleged sex crime happened in the course of another crime being committed, particularly a violent one such as “robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, homicide, aggravated assault.” This can apply in situations where a group of people were involved in a criminal act, and one of them committed a sex crime while the others committed other crimes.
  • Any injuries the victim suffered during the alleged sex crime.

New Jersey has identified a number of different types of sex crimes with different levels of severity and penalties. These include two levels of Sexual Assault:

  • Aggravated Sexual Assault. If the victim is under the age of 13 and there was “an act of sexual penetration,” the defendant can be charged with aggravated sexual assault. This is a first-degree offense, the most serious of New Jersey's offense levels. This may also be charged where the victim was 13 to 15 years of age, and the defendant is a close relative, or where the victim was sexually assaulted during the course of a violent crime, or where a weapon was used in the course of the sexual assault.
  • Sexual Assault. If the victim is under 13 and there was “sexual contact” but not “sexual penetration,” the defendant may be charged with this second-degree offense. It can also be charged where there was “sexual penetration,” but the victim didn't freely and fully consent, or was unduly coerced, or where the defendant was in a supervisory position over the victim, or where there is a family connection between the victim and the defendant.

New Jersey also has two levels of Criminal Sexual Contact crimes:

  • Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact. Where the facts are similar to the Aggravated Sexual Assault charge listed above, but where there was “an act of sexual contact” instead of “sexual penetration,” the defendant may be charged with this third-degree offense.
  • Criminal Sexual Contact. Where the facts are similar to Sexual Assault, but again, where there was allegedly “sexual contact” but no “sexual penetration,” the defendant may face this fourth-degree charge.

There are also two types of Lewdness charges in New Jersey:

  • Fourth Degree Lewdness. Where a defendant allegedly exposed their “intimate parts” for their gratification or for someone else's gratification, and where they knew or should have known that they'd be seen by a child under 13 or by someone mentally incapable of understanding the “sexual nature” of the defendant's actions, the defendant may be charged with this fourth-degree offense.
  • Disorderly Person's Lewdness. Similar to what's commonly known as indecent exposure, if someone commits a “flagrantly lewd or offensive act” that would cause people seeing it to be “affronted and alarmed,” they may be charged with this disorderly persons offense.

Investigation and Trial Procedures

Sex crime investigations in New Jersey operate a bit differently from other types of criminal investigations. Where a victim has alleged that they were sexually assaulted, police are required to notify prosecutors within 24 hours of when the complaint is made. This is meant to allow prosecutors and police to work together on the investigation in an effort to make sure that the evidence collected can be used effectively at trial.

Victims also play a more active role in the process than in other types of criminal cases. They have a right to be notified of the investigation's status and when prosecutors decide to charge – or not to charge – someone for a crime that's connected to the allegation. The victim is also notified of pleas that are being offered or accepted.

Once you've been charged with a sex crime, you can expect the process to be similar to other types of criminal cases. The typical case will include the following:

  • Arraignment. This will happen at the Monmouth County Courthouse in Freehold. During your arraignment, the judge will read out loud the charges against you, which is a step you can elect to waive. Whether you're to be released on bail and, if so, what the bail amount should be will also be discussed. Having the help of an experienced member of the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at this stage can be very helpful, especially when it comes to helping you with getting bail at an amount you can afford to post.
  • Discovery. This is where the prosecution must turn over potential evidence to you or your lawyer. An experienced attorney from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team will make sure that prosecutors meet their obligations in this area so that you have full access to as much information as you're entitled to and can properly prepare a strong defense.
  • Meet and Confer. At some point, the prosecutor and your attorney will meet to discuss the case and any possible plea deals that may be negotiated. Plea offers from the prosecution must be made in writing and will be turned over to your attorney as part of the discovery process.
  • Pretrial Conferences and Hearings. Conferences usually deal with “housekeeping” matters such as motion and trial schedules and dates by which certain information must be provided. Hearings will consider motions that are designed to resolve or reduce the issues to be decided at trial.
  • Trial. The prosecution and defense will make opening statements, after which the prosecution will put on its evidence in the form of witness testimony and documents. Your attorney will have the chance to cross-examine witnesses and to argue against the introduction of evidence, where appropriate. You will then have a chance to put on your own side of the case, with any witnesses and documents you have to offer, though your case can also depend on your attorney's cross-examination of the prosecution's witnesses. At the close of the case, both sides will make closing arguments, and the jury (assuming there is one; you have the option to have the judge decide your case) will receive instructions from the judge about how to decide the case.
  • Sentencing. If the decision at trial is not in your favor, you will be sentenced at a later date after the court receives information from the government and from your attorney.

Defending against sex crime charges is complicated and serious and is not something you should try to handle on your own. Being represented by one of the experienced lawyers from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can make a huge difference in the outcome. With potentially years of your life on the line, you should contact the Lento Law Firm to learn more about how our seasoned criminal defense attorneys can help you.

Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences

New Jersey has established mandatory minimum sentences for some sex crimes. These laws require the judge to sentence you to a certain minimum amount of time for certain crimes, whether you're convicted at trial or plead guilty as part of a plea deal. In cases where you're a repeat offender, you may also be required to serve at least five years of your sentence before you're eligible for parole. For other serious sex crime cases, you may have to serve 85% of your sentence before you can even be considered for parole.

Sex Offender Registry

A sex crimes conviction can follow you around for the rest of your life, well after you've served your time. New Jersey, as do other states, maintains a sex offender registry where those convicted of certain levels of sex crimes are required to register and list their home address. The registry also provides the public with their photo and details of their sex crime conviction.

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

Facing a sex crime charge can be an extremely daunting task. The laws are complicated, the potential penalties are severe, and a conviction can change your life forever. It's not a situation you want to face alone. Fortunately, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team includes attorneys with years of experience representing clients charged with sex crimes all over New Jersey. Our attorneys know the law, the court procedures, and, most importantly, how to help you protect your right to a fair trial.

Call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team today at 888.535.3686, or use our contact form to set up a confidential consultation. We understand how difficult it can be to face these kinds of allegations, and we are here to listen and to help!

​​​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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