Sex Crime Defense In Middlesex County

Facing the New Jersey criminal justice system can be a daunting task for defendants. But those accused or charged with sex crimes may encounter unique challenges with the state's vigilance in punishing offenders. Despite statewide oversight, the investigation, adjudication, and potential sanctions for sex crimes come at the county level. Middlesex County prosecutors—like others throughout the state—are aggressive in their tactics to indict those accused.

Defendants will then stand before a judge in a Middlesex County courtroom up against an intimidating array of possible punishments. Not only are there maximum jail terms measured in decades and fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but convictions also force individuals to register as sex offenders. However, even when charges are unsubstantiated or dropped by the accuser, former defendants often face ridicule and other social challenges that affect their families and careers. Therefore, the need for an immediate defense is imperative.

When your future is on the line, a passionate and knowledgeable team of attorneys is a valuable investment. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team recognizes the nuances in every defendant's case and how their aspects affect every step of New Jersey's criminal and civil processes. To assert your right to fair legal proceedings and build a robust defense 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 most significant factors in how the justice system handles sex crimes is the severity of the charge. New Jersey maintains a system categorizing offenses that range from first-degree charges as the highest grade of seriousness to a fourth-degree charge or disorderly offense among the least severe. Each degree of offense—from disorderly to first degree—is also separated by its maximum punishment allowed under the law, which includes the following:

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 generalizations. For example, sexual assault is typically a second-degree charge, and lewdness is usually relegated as a disorderly offense. Yet, each charge will depend on the facts of each individual case.

Understanding Consent Laws

Another major point prosecutors will build their case on is whether there was consent—an agreement to engage in sexual acts with one or more persons—between the accuser and the defendant. Consent can mean a difference in the charge or degree of offense. Critically, an investigation will reveal if the accuser withheld consent or even lacked the legal capacity to give consent, which depends heavily on age.

New Jersey asserts that anyone age 16 and above can legally consent to sexual activity with an adult. However, for individuals between 13 and 16, there is a unique stipulation. Unless intoxicated or otherwise unconscious, 13, 14, 15, and 16-year-olds may consent to each other. Nevertheless, the state maintains the following cannot give legal consent to sexual acts with an adult:

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

Consent can be substantiated in a variety of ways, from medical assessments and official documentation to evidence like text messages and other electronic correspondence. Not only is the age of those involved important, but how much time has passed since the incident occurred.

New Jersey Sex Crimes Statute of Limitations

Each state's criminal justice system maintains standards on how much time can pass after a crime before the incident cannot be approached by the courts. The statute of limitations will be different for theft, vandalism, assault and battery, and others, and sex crimes have their own regulations for time limits. A state's statute of limitations ensures due process is protected for the accused, but also the accused.

For civil cases, victims have up to 37 years beyond the age of majority—18 years old—to claim financial damage for an alleged action that happened when the victim was a minor. For those who levy accusations from an event occurring when they were already an adult, the statute of limitations is lowered to seven years.

Criminal cases are much different, however, as the defendant is then accountable to the state rather than only the accuser. In New Jersey, there is no statute of limitations for criminal sex cases involving sexual assault, applicable to both minors and adults. However, other sex crimes do have a statute of limitations. 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.

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. Defendants will find a boundary with acts involving sexual penetration and sexual contact, with the former deemed more legally severe than the latter. The variation could result in a third-degree versus 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 "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."

For sex crimes, the motivation behind the crime or how it was carried out are significant aspects that will influence the degree of offense. When aggravation or pre-meditation is involved, the criminal justice system will take that into account when assessing charges.

Investigation and Trial Procedures

Once Middlesex County law enforcement is aware of a crime, they will begin discerning whether reasonable grounds exist to make an arrest. 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.

When an arrest occurs, it will kick off the following common steps in the criminal justice system:

  1. Arraignment: The defendant must appear before a county judge for a formal reading of the charges and their rights throughout the process.
  2. Bail: The defendant may be released until trial through a conditional agreement, culminating in a sum of money paid as a promise to reappear in court on various scheduled dates.
  3. Discovery: After arraignment but before a trial, legal representatives from both parties will collect evidence and trade information to prepare for arguments in front of a judge—or grand jury in some cases.
  4. Plea negotiations: In some circumstances, parties may come to an agreement for the defendant to avoid maximum punishments.
  5. Other pretrial motions: 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, and addressing other various case matters.

Going through these steps and everything else the New Jersey criminal justice system throws at defendants can be overwhelming. It can be even more stressful if a defendant shows a pattern of criminal behavior or is found to be at risk for re-offense.

Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences

The consequences of sex crime convictions will depend heavily on the degree of offense heard by the court. Responsibility for sentencing is usually in the hands of the presiding judge—and sometimes a grand jury. However, some punishments are levied irrespective of what the court decides.

Habitual offenders—defendants already convicted of a sex crime—must serve a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in New Jersey without the chance for parole. It's important to note that the initial charge used to establish a pattern of offense does not have to be in New Jersey. Therefore, past and current convictions in other states will influence New Jersey's sentencing process. While some may believe that being respectful throughout the process may lead the judge to impose a lighter punishment, the mandatory minimum is ineligible for reduction.

Sexual Offender Registry

Those facing sex crime charges may get hung up on thinking about the massive fines or incarceration after conviction. However, there are further consequences that can affect individuals for longer than any of the maximum jail terms or monetary penalties. Many forget about having to register as a sex offender when they rejoin public life. Inclusion on the online sex offender registry is not based solely on the individual's conviction but on the probability of sex crime re-offense.

New Jersey's sex offender registry has three categories, also known as tiers. Depending on which level the offender is placed in, varying degrees of personal information are listed online. For instance, home address and occupation. But it will also include notification to community groups when the offender is in certain areas like the following:

  • 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.

Placement on the registry is not only a burden for one's social life, but it may also cause challenges to professional pursuits. Moreover, sex crimes can often affect standing with professional licensing boards, placing one's career in jeopardy. 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 the significance of New Jersey sex crimes.

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

If you are up against allegations or charges of sex crimes, the threat to your future could not be more real. With the potential for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, decades behind bars, and registry as a sex offender, you risk enduring severe damage to your reputation. Act fast to protect your right to a fair trial and build your defense with the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team.

Well known in Middlesex County and throughout New Jersey, the Lento Law Firm is prepared to craft and implement your defense strategy, prioritizing your right to due process and opportunity to assert your side of the story. The New Jersey criminal 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.

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