Sex Crime Defense in Mount Holly

If you've been accused of or charged with a sex crime in or around Mount Holly, New Jersey, you have every right to be extremely worried about your future. Depending on the charge, you could be facing years or decades behind bars and tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Even after completing your sentence, you may have to register publicly as a sex offender for the remainder of your life. That's why if you are in this situation, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has decades of experience representing people just like you who have been charged with serious crimes, including sex crimes, in the Mount Holly area. Call us at 888.535.3686 or use our contact form to set up a consultation today. We'll discuss your situation and let you know how we can help you protect your rights.

Being charged with a sex crime can be an agonizing experience. No matter how strong or weak the evidence against you might be, there will be people who will pre-judge you and assume you're guilty before you ever enter a courtroom. The publicity that comes with a sex crime charge can follow you around for years, even if you're not convicted or if the case is dropped by prosecutors. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can help you not only defend yourself against the charges in court but also counter the negative stories that may circulate outside of it.

Bail can be difficult to secure in some sex crime cases. For more serious charges, you may have to argue against skilled prosecutors who want you to stay in jail until your case comes to trial or is otherwise disposed of. Here, too, a skilled defense attorney from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can make all the difference between you being granted bail on terms you can meet or languishing in the Burlington County Detention Center in Mount Holly for months until your trial date.

How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?

There are five levels of sex crimes in New Jersey, each with its own potential range of penalties. New Jersey uses a grading system to define different crime levels, so you won't see crimes referred to as “felonies” or “misdemeanors” as you do in many other states. The five levels that apply to sex crimes in New Jersey are:

  • First-degree Offense. This is the highest, most serious level. Being convicted of a first-degree sex crime can mean a prison sentence of between 10 and 20 years, and in some cases up to life, as well as a fine of up to $200,000.
  • Second-degree Offense. A conviction of a second-degree sex crime can come with a 5 to 10-year prison term and a fine of up to $150,000.
  • Third-degree Offense. If convicted of third-degree sex crime, you may serve between 3 and 5 years in jail and have to pay a fine of as much as $15,000.
  • Fourth-degree Offense. Conviction of a fourth-degree sex crime can result in an 18-month jail term and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Disorderly Offense. These are the least serious, but they can still land you in jail for up to 6 months and cost you up to $1000.

The level of sex crime you may be charged with depends on the facts of your case and the evidence that the prosecution has against you. Not all accusations can be supported with admissible evidence, which is why sometimes there is a difference between the allegations that are reported in news media and the charges that are eventually filed against the defendant in a given case.

Understanding the Age of Consent

It's common to hear people say that the age of consent in New Jersey is 16, but in reality, it's more complicated than that. New Jersey has a fairly complex set of consent laws that can result in the age of consent being different depending on the situation. Here's a summary:

  • A child under the age of 13 is legally unable to consent to any sexual contact.
  • From age 13 to 15, a child can't consent to sexual contact with an adult but may be able to consent to sexual contact with a child their age or up to 3 years older.
  • As noted, the statutory age of consent in New Jersey is 16. That doesn't apply to a child aged 16 or 17 when the other party is a close relative or an individual such as a teacher or detention center employee who has authority over them.
  • In addition, students who are still in high school and are aged 18 up to 21 cannot consent to having sexual contact with a teacher or school employee.
  • Anyone who is “intellectually or mentally incapacitated” or who is “physically helpless or incapacitated” is not considered able to give valid consent to sexual contact. This commonly comes up in cases where one or both of the individuals involved in an alleged sex crime were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In some cases, the question of consent is a purely legal one, in particular where the victim is underage. In others, it becomes a fact issue, where an individual over the age of consent maintains that they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs or were unconscious, and so could not have given valid consent to sexual contact. Retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you defend yourself in cases where consent is an issue. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team understands the laws and issues that arise in consent cases in New Jersey, and if you retain us, we will fiercely protect your legal rights.

New Jersey Sex Crime Statue of Limitations

The statute of limitations is a law that prevents someone from being charged with a crime after a certain number of years have passed. There isn't just one number; it can vary depending on how serious the crime is, with more serious crimes having a longer “limitations period” than less serious ones. For some extremely serious crimes, including sexual assault, there is no statute of limitations. For the crime of sexual contact, including aggravated sexual contact, the limitation period is five years.

Civil cases have their own limitation periods as well. A civil case is where one party is suing another, versus a criminal case where the government has charged the defendant with a crime. Victims of sex crimes sometimes sue the person who the victims say is responsible for the crime for the pain, suffering, and mental damages caused by the sex crime. Someone who was the victim of a sex crime as a minor may have up to 37 years after reaching the age of 18 to bring a lawsuit. This extremely long period exists because victims often suppress memories of sex crimes that were committed against them as children. Once they become aware, however, they have seven years to bring a lawsuit.

Types of Sex Offenses in New Jersey

New Jersey has six main types of sex crimes. The more serious crimes are ones where “sexual penetration” has occurred; the less serious are ones involving “sexual contact” (but not “sexual penetration”) that took place or where the defendant allegedly exposed themselves to the public.

The terms “sexual penetration” and “sexual contact” are each defined in New Jersey law, along with other terms that are used in New Jersey's sex crime statutes.

In addition to the type of physical contact or exposure that allegedly took place, prosecutors will consider a number of other factors when deciding what to charge a defendant accused of a sex crime with. These include:

  • The age of the victim
  • The mental capacity or mental state of the victim at the time the crime allegedly occurred
  • Whether the alleged sex crime occurred at the same time other crimes, particularly violent ones such as “robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, homicide” or “aggravated assault,” were being committed by the defendant or persons with the defendant at or around the same time
  • Whether the defendant used a weapon in the course of allegedly committing the sex crime
  • If the victim was injured in the course of the alleged sex crime

There are two levels of Sexual Assault in New Jersey:

  • Aggravated sexual assault can be charged where the victim is under 13 and there was “an act of sexual penetration.” It can also be charged where the victim was 13 to 15 and the defendant is a close relative, or where the victim was assaulted when other violent crime was being committed, or where the defendant used a weapon in the course of committing the sexual assault. Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree offense.
  • Sexual assault may be charged where the victim was under 13 and there was “sexual contact” but not “sexual penetration.” In other cases, it can be charged where there was “sexual penetration,” but the victim didn't consent to it, or was coerced, or where the defendant was in a supervisory position over the victim, or where there is a close family connection between the victim and the defendant. Sexual assault is a second-degree offense.

There are also two levels of Criminal Sexual Contact in New Jersey:

  • Aggravated criminal sexual contact can be based on a fact situation similar to aggravated sexual assault, but where there was “an act of sexual contact” rather than “sexual penetration.” This is a third-degree offense.
  • Criminal sexual contact charges may be filed in situations where the facts are similar to those in a sexual assault case, but again, where there was “sexual contact” instead of “sexual penetration.” Criminal sexual contact is a fourth-degree offense.

There are two separate lewdness crimes in New Jersey:

  • Fourth-degree lewdness can be charged where the defendant allegedly exposed their “intimate parts” and did so in a way that suggested it was for their gratification or for the gratification of someone else and where they were visible to someone under the age of 13 or someone mentally unable to understand the “sexual nature” of the defendant's actions. As the name suggests, it's a fourth-degree offense.
  • Disorderly person's lewdness is similar to what is commonly referred to as indecent exposure, but it requires the defendant to commit a “flagrantly lewd or offensive act” that would cause someone seeing it to be “affronted and alarmed.” It is, obviously, a disorderly persons offense.

Investigation and Trial Procedures

Sex crimes are subject to special requirements when it comes to police notifying prosecutors of the allegation that a crime took place. In the case of sexual assault, prosecutors must be notified within 24 hours of when the police receive the complaint from the alleged victim. This is supposed to allow prosecutors and police to work together on the investigation so that the evidence that's collected will have a better chance of being admitted at trial.

Victims are also able to be more actively involved in the case than with other types of crimes. They have a right to be notified about the status of the investigation when prosecutors decide to bring charges (or to drop them), and about pleas that the prosecutor is offering or that the defendant has accepted.

If you've been charged with a sex crime, you can expect the court process to generally follow these steps:

  • You'll be arraigned at the Burlington County courthouse in Mount Holly. At that time, the judge will read the allegations against you out loud – or you can waive that reading, as most defendants do. This is where bail issues will be resolved, at least at first, and where it can be very helpful to have one of the experienced members of the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team by your side to help negotiate bail terms on your behalf.
  • There will be a period of time when the prosecution must turn over what is called discovery materials to you or your attorney. The discovery will include potential evidence that the prosecution may use against you, so it's important that you have a review of all of it. An experienced criminal defense attorney will work hard to make sure the prosecutors meet their obligation to turn over all discovery material in time so it can be reviewed before any trial.
  • The prosecutor will contact your attorney to hold a “meet and confer” session, where they will discuss the case and whether there is a chance to agree on plea terms, thus avoiding a trial. Any plea proposals from the government will be in writing and will be turned over as part of discovery.
  • There may be a number of court sessions before a trial happens. Pretrial conferences may be held from time to time to handle so-called “housekeeping” matters and provide additional opportunities to discuss a plea. Pretrial hearings will typically handle motions that are brought by the prosecution or defense to help narrow the issues to be handled at trial.
  • If the case doesn't resolve itself in a plea, there will be a trial. Both sides will make their opening arguments before the prosecution presents its evidence against you. Your attorney will be able to cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses and to argue against the introduction of its evidence, where appropriate. Then you'll be able to put on your defense, though because you are presumed innocent, you're not required to put on any evidence. Closing arguments will follow, after which the jury will be instructed about how to decide the case (unless you've waived the jury, in which case the judge will decide). At the end of the trial, there will be a verdict, either against you or in your favor (though in rare cases, the judge may declare a mistrial where the jury is unable to decide either way).
  • Sentencing. If the trial decision goes against you, you'll be sentenced at a later date after the judge receives information from the government and from your attorney about you and the crime you've been convicted of. Any appeal that may happen will follow after the sentencing.

As you might guess, it can be very difficult to defend against a sex crime charge, even more so if you're trying to do it yourself. Retaining one of the experienced criminal defense attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can make a significant difference in how your case goes. When you're facing years or decades of prison time, you need the help of someone who has done this before. Contact us; we are here to help.

Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences

If you're convicted of any level of sexual assault or aggravated sexual contact for a second time (or more), you face a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 5 years, during which you are not eligible for parole. If convicted of aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault, you will be required to serve a minimum of 85% of your sentence before you will be eligible for parole.

Sex Offender Registry

If you're convicted of either sexual assault crime or sexual contact crime, as well as a number of other crimes, you will be required to register as a sex offender with the state of New Jersey. Your name, address, photo, and details of your conviction will be available to the public through the searchable online registry.

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

The experienced attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team understand New Jersey's sex crime laws, court rules and procedures, and how to make sure your rights are protected throughout the course of your case. We have years of experience representing people charged with all levels of crime in New Jersey, including in Mount Holly, and we know how difficult and important it is to our clients that they receive the best defense we can provide.

You deserve a fair trial. You deserve to have your rights protected. Call us at 888.535.3686 or use our contact form to set up a confidential consultation to learn more about how the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help you. We're 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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