Sex Crime Defense in Hackensack

Being accused of having committed a sex crime in Hackensack, New Jersey, can turn your life upside down. And things only get worse if you're charged after authorities investigate the allegation. Depending on the circumstances, you could be facing decades in prison, fines in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a future where, even after you've done your time, you're required to publicly register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. This is why it's important to reach out to the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team as soon as you learn about the allegations against you. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will help you protect your rights and will defend you throughout the investigation and prosecution process. To learn more about the ways we can help you, call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888.535.3686, or use our contact form to set up a confidential consultation.

Whether you're being investigated because someone has claimed you committed a sex crime or you've been charged with one by Bergen County prosecutors, you are in for a difficult time as you deal with being the target of an investigation or a prosecution. Public opinion in these types of cases almost always is on the side of the alleged victim, so many people will consider you guilty before a trial ever starts. Criminal courts in New Jersey, however, still presume you're innocent until proven guilty and require the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Having one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys on your side will help make sure that the government respects your rights and will provide you with the kind of informed advocate that you need to help you through this difficult period.

In cases where prosecutors are arguing that you should remain in jail until your case comes to trial, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can argue for reasonable bail terms on your behalf, ones that will provide assurances to the prosecution that you will appear in court when required to while being within the range of what you're able to afford.

How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?

New Jersey has a multi-level approach to crimes that is different than the typical “misdemeanor/felony” designations you may be used to from TV crime shows. There are five separate levels of crimes, with only one of those being relatively minor and perhaps comparable to a misdemeanor. Where sex crimes are involved, there are five separate potential offense levels:

  • First-degree Offense sex crimes are the most serious, and can result in a prison term of between 10 and 20 years (in some cases, life) and a fine of up to $200,000.
  • Second-degree Offense sex crimes can mean a 5 to 10-year prison term and a fine of up to $150,000.
  • Third-degree Offense sex crimes come with a 3 to 5-year prison sentence and up to $15,000 in fines.
  • Fourth-degree Offense sex crime jail terms can be up to 18 months, and the fine can be up to $10,000.
  • Disorderly Offense sex crimes are the least serious, but a conviction can still land you in jail for up to 6 months and pay a fine of up to $1000.

The charges you may face will not always match the original allegations made against you. Prosecutors will charge based on the evidence – admissible evidence – that they are able to collect during the investigation process, and sometimes, the type of charge the evidence supports is different from the allegations that the alleged victim has made. One of the benefits of working with an experienced criminal defense attorney from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is that our attorneys understand the evidentiary standards that prosecutors must meet. This means that misleading or unreliable evidence that could result in your conviction is much less likely to be accepted by the court during any trial.

Understanding New Jersey's Age of Consent

Many sex crime charges are based on the lack of consent between the alleged victim and the defendant. In some cases, victims are legally unable to consent because of their age. In other cases, they can't consent because of their physical or mental condition. Here are some of the different aspects of New Jersey's consent laws:

  • Children under the age of 13 are legally unable to consent to any sexual contact with anyone.
  • Children aged 13 to 15 may be able to consent to sexual contact with someone their age or up to three years older.
  • New Jersey's statutory age of consent – 16 – doesn't apply in situations where the other person is a close relative or in a position of authority over the younger person, such as a teacher or detention center employee.
  • Students in high school up to the age of 21 cannot consent to sexual contact with a school employee.
  • People of any age who are physically, intellectually, or mentally incapacitated or who are physically helpless cannot consent when in that condition. This issue frequently arises when one or both parties have been consuming alcohol or drugs.

The question of consent is often a difficult one to resolve, often with conflicting evidence or testimony supporting both sides of the argument. Working with one of the experienced criminal defense attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help you make sure that consent issues are properly explored during both the investigative part of your case and any eventual prosecution.

New Jersey Sex Crime Statue of Limitations

The statute of limitations, as you may know, is a law that prevents a person from being tried for an alleged crime after a certain number of years have passed. Not every crime has a statute of limitations; in particular, the most serious crimes often don't, and a defendant can be tried for committing one of them decades after the incident is alleged to have taken place.

Sexual assault crimes in New Jersey have no statute of limitations, while the crimes of sexual contact and aggravated sexual contact have a 5-year limitations period.

Sometimes, an alleged victim will sue the person they claim is responsible for a sex crime committed against them. The civil suit may seek compensation for the victim's pain, suffering, mental anguish, and physical injuries that the victim claims were caused by the defendant. In these cases, the statute of limitations can be as long as 37 years, where the victim was a child at the time of the alleged criminal act. This is to account for the fact that many young victims repress their memories of sexual attacks and don't recover those memories until adulthood. Once they've recovered the memories, however, they have 7 years to file suit based on the incident that they remember.

Types of Sex Offenses in New Jersey

New Jersey has six main types of sex crimes. The more serious ones are divided into two types: one type based on situations where there allegedly was “sexual penetration,” and a second type based on situations where there was no penetration but there was “sexual contact.” (These and other terms used in New Jersey's sex crimes statutes are defined in the statutes.)

There are many factors that go into a prosecutor's decision to charge a defendant with a particular type of crime. These include the age of the alleged victim, the type of contact that occurred, what the victim's physical or mental condition was at the time, whether a weapon was used in the attack, any injuries suffered by the victim during the attack, and whether other violent crimes were being committed at the time of the alleged attack.

Sexual Assault in New Jersey has two levels:

  • Aggravated Sexual Assault is a first-degree sex crime. It requires “sexual penetration.” It's charged in cases where the victim is under the age of 13; where the victim is between 13 and 15, and the defendant is a close relative or someone in a position of authority over the victim, where the assault occurred in the course of a violent crime; and where the defendant allegedly threatened the victim with a weapon during the attack.
  • Sexual Assault is a second-degree sex crime. It can be charged in cases where the victim was under 13 and there was “sexual contact” but not penetration or in cases where the victim was older, and there was no proper consent to the sexual contact or penetration. It can also be charged where the contact occurred between a young victim and a defendant in a supervisory position over them or where there is a close family connection between the defendant and the victim.

Criminal Sexual Contact in New Jersey also has two levels:

  • Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact is a third-degree sex crime. It applies in situations similar to the ones described for Aggravated Sexual Assault, except that there was “sexual contact” but no penetration.
  • Criminal Sexual Contact is a fourth-degree sex crime. It's similar to the crime of Sexual Assault, except that there was sexual contact but no penetration.

The crime of Lewdness in New Jersey has two levels:

  • Fourth-degree Lewdness is, of course, a fourth-degree sex crime. This can be charged when the defendant allegedly exposed themselves to someone else for the gratification of the defendant or someone else or when the defendant was visible to someone under the age of 13 or incapable of understanding the “sexual nature” of the defendant's acts.
  • Disorderly Person's Lewdness is a disorderly offense sex crime. It's charged when the defendant allegedly exposed themselves in a “flagrantly lewd or offensive” way that would make a viewer be “affronted and alarmed.”

Investigation and Trial Procedures

Sex crimes involve certain procedures that other crimes don't. When an alleged victim reports what may be a Sexual Assault to Hackensack police, they're required to inform Bergen County prosecutors within 24 hours of the report. The idea of this requirement is that prosecutors will work with the police during the investigation phase to make sure that evidence is collected in a way that allows it to be used at trial.

There are a number of typical steps that occur if you're charged with a sex crime. They include:

  • Arraignment. This will be an appearance before a judge who will read the charges against you (unless you elect to waive the formal reading). This is also where your bail will be discussed, and it can be helpful to have one of the attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team representing you. Prosecutors may ask that you be held without bail until trial, and our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help convince the judge to release you on bail terms that you are able to meet.
  • Discovery. Prosecutors have a legal obligation to turn over a wide range of evidence and other information to the defendant. Your attorney can help make sure they meet that obligation and do so in a timely way.
  • Meet and Confer. During this pretrial period, prosecutors will meet with your lawyer to discuss the case and, in some cases, whether a plea deal may be reached. If they make you an offer, they're required to do it in writing and turn it over to you as part of the discovery process. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you evaluate any plea deal, but the decision about whether or not to accept one is yours alone.
  • Pretrial Hearings and Conferences. If one side files a motion that could affect the result of the case, the judge will likely hold a hearing where both sides will argue their positions on the motion. Other court dates involve “housekeeping” matters such as scheduling; these are typically called conferences. There may be several conferences during the course of a single case.
  • Trial. If the case doesn't end in a plea deal, there will be a trial where the prosecution will put on its case against you, and your attorney will be able to argue against the introduction of evidence that doesn't meet New Jersey's legal standards, and cross-examine prosecution witnesses who appear to testify against you. You may – but aren't required to – introduce evidence and bring witnesses to testify in your own defense. You're presumed innocent, and the prosecution needs to prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether and how to bring a defense is an issue to be discussed with your attorney. Following closing arguments at trial, the jury will deliver its verdict, except in cases where you've waived your right to a jury, in which case the judge will decide the case.
  • Sentencing. If you're convicted of any charge, the judge will sentence you after receiving information about you and the possible sentences from the prosecution and your attorney. If you decide to appeal a conviction, this will happen after sentencing.

Sex crime cases can be complicated and difficult to defend against. It's not the time to begin to practice law by representing yourself. The attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team have years of experience representing defendants in serious criminal cases – including sex crime cases – all over New Jersey, including in Hackensack. We know the laws, the prosecutors, the courts, and how to make sure you receive the strongest defense for your particular situation. The sooner we get involved, the better off you're likely to be.

Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences

If you're convicted of certain sex crimes more than once, the sentence you receive will include a requirement that you serve at least five years of the sentence before you're eligible for parole. A conviction of either of the two sexual assault charges comes with a requirement that you serve at least 85% of your sentence before you're eligible for parole.

Sex Offender Registry

One of the most onerous aspects of certain sex crime convictions comes after you've done whatever time you're required to serve. New Jersey's sex offender registry is a public database that includes your name, photo, current address, and the details of your conviction. Any time you change addresses, you're required to update your information in the registry so that your conviction very publicly follows you around for the remainder of your life.

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

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team includes seasoned attorneys with years of experience helping defendants face serious criminal charges in courts in Hackensack as well as all across New Jersey. We'll help you understand the charges against you and the court procedures that take place during the pretrial process. We'll work with you to develop as strong a strategy for your defense as your case will allow, and we will vigorously defend your rights throughout the process.

Don't try to take on the defense of a sex crime charge alone! Give the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team a call today at 888.535.3686, or use our contact form to set up a confidential 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.

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