Anyone charged with a sex crime in Newark needs to be concerned about how they are going to defend themselves against what can be a life-changing and extremely serious charge. The consequences of a conviction can go well beyond having to serve time in prison or pay a large fine. Those convicted of sex crimes will carry their criminal record with them and, in many cases, will have to publicly register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of their lives. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team understands New Jersey's sex crime laws and its criminal court procedures. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can defend you and protect your rights when you've been charged with a sex crime in Newark. 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.
Facing a sex crime allegation or charge can be overwhelming. As we know from social media, many people rush to judgment as soon as charges are filed and assume that anyone charged with a sex crime must be guilty. Fortunately, courts in Newark maintain higher standards, and guilt must still be established beyond a reasonable doubt. But as a defendant, it may feel as though the odds are in the government's favor, particularly given the enormous resources that prosecutors have at their disposal.
Fortunately, there is a way to even the balance. Retaining one of the experienced attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. Our lawyers understand what the government needs to prove in a sex crime case, and we've helped defendants all over New Jersey defend themselves and protect their rights in sex crime prosecutions. We know the courts, the prosecutors, and the procedures that apply in criminal cases, and we will help you every step of the way, beginning with bail.
In many cases, prosecutors may try to keep you in jail until your trial and will fight to prevent you from being released on bail. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team knows how to fight back on bail issues and will do everything we can to secure your release on bail terms that you are able to meet.
How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?
New Jersey has five levels of sex crimes, only one of which is relatively minor. Unlike many other states, New Jersey doesn't separate crimes into “felony” or “misdemeanor” categories. Instead, the state uses a sort of ranking system. Potential sex crimes include the following:
- First-degree Offense. A first-degree sex crime is the most serious category of sex crime charges. If you're convicted of a first-degree sex crime, you will face a prison term of between 10 and 20 years (in some cases for life), and a fine of up to $200,000.
- Second-degree Offense. If you're convicted of a second-degree sex crime, you could spend between 5 and 10 years in prison and have to pay a fine of up to $150,000.
- Third-degree Offense. A conviction on a third-degree sex crime charge can put you in jail for 3 to 5 years and result in a $15,000 fine.
- Fourth-degree Offense. If convicted of a fourth-degree sex crime, you're facing up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Disorderly Offense. The least serious type of sex crime, but one that can still put you in jail for up to 6 months and cost you a fine of up to $1000.
What level of sex crime you are charged with is directly tied to the facts of your particular case and the strength of the prosecutor's case against you. Because not all allegations can be supported by admissible evidence, there may be a difference between the crime an alleged victim is accusing you of and the one that prosecutors charge you with. One of the most important things that we at the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team do when defending someone against criminal charges is to make sure that the evidence the prosecution tries to use in court meets all constitutional and legal requirements for evidence in a criminal case.
Understanding New Jersey's Age of Consent
Many sex crimes are charged based on the age of the alleged victim. As a result, it's important to have an understanding of at what age a young person is able to legally consent to sexual contact. While the common understanding is that 16 is the age of consent in New Jersey, in reality, it's more complicated, and depending on the relationship between the two individuals, the age of consent can be as high as 21.
- A child under the age of 13 cannot consent to any sexual contact.
- Children aged 13 through 15 may be able to consent to sexual contact with someone who is their age or up to three years older than they are.
- While the statutory age of consent in New Jersey is 16, that doesn't apply in cases where the other person is a close relative or someone who has authority over them, like a teacher or detention center employee.
- Students who are in high school and are between the ages of 18 and 21 may not consent to sexual contact with a school employee, including, of course, a teacher.
- Those who are physically incapacitated, helpless, or intellectually or mentally incapacitated are considered unable to give consent. This issue often arises in situations where the victim or both individuals involved in a sexual encounter were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The question of whether the victim consented to sexual contact is, in cases of young victims, often a purely legal question. In other cases, it's a factual question that can turn on whether the victim was able to give valid consent to the contact. These questions can be difficult to resolve, often pitting one person's version of the incident against another's. It can help substantially to be represented by one of the experienced attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team who understands the laws and issues that apply to consent questions in sex crime cases. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you protect your legal rights in these difficult cases.
New Jersey Sex Crime Statute of Limitations
You may have heard of the statute of limitations. The idea is that after some period of time set down by law, a person can't be convicted of certain crimes. Not all crimes have a statute of limitations. Very serious crimes, including sexual assault in New Jersey, have no statute of limitations, meaning that a defendant can be charged for an alleged sex crime that took place decades ago. For other New Jersey sex crimes, including sexual contact and aggravated sexual contact, the limitation period is five years.
Civil cases – where someone sues another person – have statutes of limitation as well. It's not unusual for victims of a sex crime to sue the person they claim committed the crime, seeking to recover damages for the pain, suffering, and mental anguish that the victims claim were caused by the defendant. In New Jersey, a minor who was the victim of a sex crime has up to 37 years after reaching the age of 18 to bring a lawsuit against an alleged perpetrator. The reason for this lengthy limitation period is that young victims often repress memories of sex crimes that were committed against them, only remembering the events after they enter adulthood. Once they have recovered these memories, however, New Jersey requires them to bring suit within 7 years of when the memory resurfaces.
Types of Sex Offenses in New Jersey
There are six main types of sex crimes in New Jersey. In general, they can be divided into two types. The more serious crimes are ones where “sexual penetration” has occurred; the less serious are ones where “sexual contact,” not including penetration, has taken place. Finally, the least serious are crimes based on the defendant exposing themselves to the public in some way.
New Jersey law specifically defines what's meant by “sexual penetration” and “sexual contact,” as well as what other terms used in the sex crimes statutes mean.
Prosecutors typically consider a number of factors when deciding what level of crime to charge in a sex crime case. Some of these factors include:
- The victim's age
- Whether a weapon was allegedly used in the course of committing the alleged sex crime
- What the mental capacity or mental state of the victim was at the time of the alleged sex crime
- Whether the alleged sex crime took place during the commission of other crimes, in particular, violent crimes such as “robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, homicide” or “aggravated assault”
- Whether the victim was injured during the commission of the alleged sex crime
New Jersey has two levels of Sexual Assault:
- Aggravated Sexual Assault. This is a first-degree offense. It requires there to have been “sexual penetration.” It can be charged when the victim is under 13, or when the victim is between 13 and 15 and the defendant is a close relative. It can also be charged in situations where the victim was sexually assaulted while a violent crime was taking place or where the defendant used a weapon in the course of the assault.
- Sexual Assault. This is a second-degree offense. It can be charged where the victim was under 13, and there was sexual contact but not penetration. It can also be charged in cases where there was penetration but the victim didn't consent to it or was coerced, in cases where the defendant was in a supervisory position over the young victim, or where there is a close family connection between a young victim and the defendant.
New Jersey has two levels of Criminal Sexual Contact:
- Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact. This is a third-degree offense. It applies in situations similar to those described for Aggravated Sexual Assault, except where there was “sexual contact” instead of penetration.
- Criminal Sexual Contact. This is a fourth-degree offense. It applies, in fact, to situations similar to those for Sexual Assault, except again, there was allegedly “sexual contact” but no penetration.
There are two types of Lewdness crimes in New Jersey:
- Fourth Degree Lewdness. It can be charged where the defendant allegedly exposes themselves to others in a way that suggests it was done for the defendant's own gratification or someone else's gratification, or where it was visible to someone under the age of 13 or who was unable to understand the “sexual nature” of the defendant's actions.
- Disorderly Person's Lewdness. This disorderly person's offense is based on the defendant's “flagrantly lewd or offensive act” that would cause a viewer to be “affronted and alarmed.”
Investigation and Trial Procedures
Sex crimes have special procedures that police and prosecutors must follow. When a victim claims to have been sexually assaulted, Newark police must notify local prosecutors of the allegation within 24 hours of when they receive the complaint. This is to allow prosecutors to work together with police on the investigation, the expectation being that doing so will help make sure that evidence is collected in such a way that it will be admissible at trial.
If you're a defendant in a sex crimes case, you can expect a number of things to happen during the course of your case.
- Arraignment. This is when you will appear before a Superior Court judge at one of the three Essex County Courthouses in Newark. At your arraignment, the judge may read the allegations against you out loud, or you may waive that reading, which is usually the case when you're represented by counsel. Your bail will be discussed at this time, and this is when it can be particularly helpful to be represented by one of the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team's experienced attorneys.
- Discovery. There will be a period of time when the prosecution will have to share the information it has about your case with you and your lawyer. If you're working with one of the experienced members of the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team, they'll work hard to make sure that the prosecution turns over everything it's required to when it's supposed to do so.
- Meet and Confer. The prosecutor will typically contact your attorney to discuss your case and explore the possibility of a plea bargain. If the prosecution has a plea proposal for you, this will be put in writing and will be turned over as part of discovery.
- Pretrial Conferences and Hearings. These take place for various reasons; conferences are typically “housekeeping” meetings in court to discuss scheduling and, at times, a plea. Hearings take place when one side has made a motion that requires the judge to make a decision on some point relating to the case, such as whether to exclude or allow certain types of evidence at trial.
- Trial. When the case doesn't “plead out,” there will be a trial. The prosecution will go first with its evidence and witnesses, which your attorney will be allowed to object to (for evidence) and cross-examine (for witnesses). You aren't required to put on any evidence (you're presumed innocent), but depending on the facts of your case, your attorney may recommend that certain evidence be introduced or that witnesses testify on your behalf. Both attorneys will present closing arguments, and then the jury (assuming you elect to have a jury trial) will deliver a verdict.
- Sentencing. In cases where the verdict is not in your favor, you will be sentenced by the Superior Court judge. This typically happens sometime after the verdict. The judge will receive information from the government and from your attorney about you and the crime you've been convicted of. Any appeal of your case will happen after sentencing.
Defending a sex crime case is often very complicated. It's not something you want to do for yourself. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team includes attorneys with many years of experience defending clients accused of serious crimes, including sex crimes, in Newark and all over New Jersey. You don't want to face this kind of serious situation alone – so call us to learn more about how we can help.
Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences
New Jersey has implemented mandatory minimum sentences that apply in certain situations. If you are convicted of any sexual assault crime or aggravated sexual contact crime for a second time (or more), you are required to serve at least a 5-year sentence. During that period, you will not be eligible for parole. And if you're convicted of either sexual assault charge, you'll have to serve at least 85% of your sentence before you're eligible for parole.
Sex Offender Registry
Depending on the sex crime you're convicted of, you may be required to register as a sex offender with the State of New Jersey. This is the case for a conviction of either sexual assault crime or sexual contact crime, and some other crimes as well. This means that the public will have access to your name, address, photo, and the details of your conviction. The obligation to register does not expire.
How New Jersey's Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team Can Help You
Don't face serious sex crime charges alone. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help you from the point at which allegations are first made against you all the way through the resolution of your case. We will fight to make sure your rights are protected, that the prosecution lives up to its obligations, and that your case is resolved in as fair and favorable way as possible. Our attorneys have years of experience representing clients charged with all types of crimes in Newark, and we know how to make sure our clients receive the strongest defense we can provide.
Call us today at 888.535.3868, or our contact form to set up a confidential consultation. At the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team, we understand how difficult this is for you, and we're here to listen and help!