Sex Crime Defense in Passaic County

Protecting yourself against sex crime charges in New Jersey can be challenging. Not only do these crimes come with severe punishments (such as 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000), but anyone can be charged with such crimes. That is, sex crimes charges do not discriminate against age, gender, education, or occupation. Anyone of any background can find themselves in a Passaic County court.

High emotions tend to slow down proceedings, especially when the issue is between friends or family or even close community members. Then, even when the charges are dropped or the defendant is found not guilty, the damage to their reputation is done. As such, it is incredibly important for you to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney with extensive experience defending against sex crime allegations.

You need a strong defense. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team will ensure you are able to exercise your right to due process and have the means to challenge these accusations effectively. Act now; call Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or go online to schedule a consultation.

How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?

Sex crimes are ranked by their level of severity in New Jersey. Where your particular case lands, and thus what sentence you might incur, will depend on the degree the offense falls under. The five degrees of sex crimes in Passaic County include:

  • First-Degree Offense: For this offense, if a defendant is convicted, they can receive a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years and a maximum fine of up to $200,000.
  • Second-Degree Offense: If a defendant is convicted of a second-degree offense, they face a maximum incarceration of 5 to 10 years and a maximum fine of up to $150,000.
  • Third-Degree Offense: For third-degree offenses, defendants face a maximum incarceration of three to five years and a maximum fine of up to $15,000.
  • Fourth-Degree Offense: Defendants facing a fourth-degree charge can receive a maximum incarceration of 18 months and a maximum fine of up to $10,000.
  • Disorderly Offense: These types of crimes are less serious than a felony, but a conviction can still carry serious consequences, such as six months maximum incarceration and a maximum fine of up to $1,000.

To determine the proper defense to these charges, Lento Law Firm would review your case, identify the degree you are being charged with, and then tailor their response in kind. Cases that involve rape, aggravated sexual assault, or other severe behaviors, usually fall under first-degree offenses. Whereas indecent exposure or lewdness, which are sex crimes, generally fall under fourth-degree crimes or disorderly offenses.

Understanding the Age of Consent

In Passaic County, a person can be charged with a sex crime if they did not receive permission from the victim before engaging in a sexual act with them. Moreover, there are certain individuals who cannot give permission – or consent – to the actor, including:

  • Children under the age of 16.
  • Individuals over the age of 16 who have numerous physical or mental differences or disabilities.
  • Individuals who are unconscious at the time of the incident.
  • Individuals over 16 who are under the influence of substances like drugs or alcohol.
  • Minors when the other consenting party has parental, guardian, or supervisory authority over them.

Additionally, consent laws do not apply to individuals between the ages of 13 and 16 the same way they do to those over 16. For instance, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old can legally consent to engage in sexual activity with one another. The 16-year-old would not be accused of a sex crime as long as there was clear consent.

New Jersey Sex Crimes Statute of Limitations

Under New Jersey law, there is a specific statute of limitations – or time period – for criminal or civil charges to be brought against a defendant. The hope is that it will ensure timely legal action for the victims but also protect the due process rights of the defendant.

For instance, for civil charges of sex crimes, the law allows the victim to file a lawsuit within 37 years after their 18th birthday if the supposed incident happened when they were a minor. However, if the incident happened when the victim was over the age of 18, the victim would only have seven years to bring the action, starting from the moment they acknowledge they have a civil right to a claim that relates to the sexual offense.

For criminal charges, though, New Jersey has thrown out the statute of limitations for sex crimes that were driven by aggravated intent – like sexual assault or rape. Moreover, this amendment applies to both minor and adult victims.

It is incredibly important not to reach out to your accuser to try and get them to drop the charges against you. New Jersey specifically prohibits extrajudicial attempts to resolve or handle such issues, stating that any agreement made during these extrajudicial meetings would be unenforceable.

Common Sex Offenses in New Jersey

A big part of understanding sex crimes is based on recognizing the type of offense you are being accused of, such as actions involving sexual penetration and sexual contact. Sexual penetration is defined as "vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse" resulting from inserting a "finger, hand, or object" into another person. Whereas sexual contact is defined as intentionally touching the victim's "intimate parts" either directly or through clothing, done to degrade or humiliate the victim, or for sexual arousal or gratification.

Moreover, the severity and degree of the offense are influenced by a variety of elements, including the:

  • Age of the victim.
  • Age of the defendant.
  • Connection between the two.
  • Details of the supposed incident.
  • Motivations surrounding the alleged act.

The most common sex crimes for a defendant to be charged with include:

  • Aggravated sexual assault: This is a first-degree crime involving sexual penetration with (a) someone under the age of 13 years old, (b) with someone between 13 and 16 (if the defendant had a familial relationship with, or disciplinary power over the victim), (c) with someone while committing another crime, or (d) someone while either using force that produced an injury or while threatening force using a weapon.
  • Rape: A second-degree crime – also referred to as sexual assault – that involves sexual penetration through physical force or coercion (without physical harm), while the victim is physically or mentally weakened or under the defendant's legal control or supervision.
  • Aggravated criminal sexual contact: This is a third-degree crime that involves sexual contact, which comes after a victim is injured during coercion or force.
  • Indecent exposure: A fourth-degree crime that involves a defendant exposing their intimate parts for sexual gratification when they reasonably know a child under the age of 13 will see them, that some other minors will see them, or are seen by someone with a mental incapacity that makes them unable to understand the sexual nature of the exposure.
  • Lewdness: This sex crime falls under disorderly offense unless it involves a minor under the age of 13, in which case it would be a fourth-degree offense. To be convicted of lewdness, the defendant must have reasonably expected to be observed by a nonconsenting person who would be insulted or alarmed by the act.

Investigation and Trial Procedures

It is important you prepare for your defense immediately after being notified of the charges. According to the New Jersey justice system, sex crimes must be expedited. The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General explained that local law enforcement personnel must send all issues involving sex crimes they believe will be third-degree or more offenses to state prosecutors within 24 hours. Usually, though, law force personnel will begin investigating the matter immediately.

If local law enforcement believes there is probable cause to charge a defendant with a sex crime, they will arrest them. Then, the Passaic County prosecutors will evaluate the facts of the case and initial evidence to determine if the charges were appropriate and if the issue should proceed. During pretrial, the defendant will have an opportunity to engage in the following ways:

  • At the arraignment, which is where the criminal charges are read to the defendant in a formal setting.
  • The bail-setting hearing which may allow the defendant a conditional release with the promise that they appear in court during the scheduled times.
  • Then comes discovery, where the parties exchange information and evidence with one another.
  • During the plea negotiations, the prosecutors and defense attorneys have the opportunity to come up with an agreement for the defendant's plea.
  • Other pretrial motions include attempts to overturn various forms of evidence, dismiss charges, or address additional legal matters.

An experienced defense attorney is incredibly important to have in your corner. It is up to them to help safeguard your rights while creating an effective defense strategy for your case. Further, if the judge or grand jury (in cases that involve severe offenses), decides to pursue the case in court, you will need to hit the ground running when it comes to your defense. Thus, having the help of an attorney the moment you learn of the issue is the best way to ensure your case is heard.

While the trial is going on, the defense and prosecution have the opportunity to participate in the case – calling witnesses, cross-examining, and rearticulating their decisions in their closing statements. Moreover, they will have the chance to cross-examine each other's witnesses. If the court decides to confirm the charges, another hearing will be held to determine sentencing.

Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences

As we explained above, there are five different degrees of sexual crimes. To know what minimum sentence a defendant can receive, we would need to know the degree of the offense. For instance, if a defendant has been charged and convicted of a second-degree offense sex crime, they are labeled as habitual offenders. This is true even if the defendant is being charged in New Jersey for the first time but has a similar criminal charge in another jurisdiction. Habitual offenders, as such, must receive at least a minimum of five years in prison, with no possibility for parole, and the judiciary cannot reduce or postpone this punishment.

There are cases, however, when sentences can be reduced in New Jersey. However, they have to fall under the "No Release Act." Under this act, some individuals must serve at least 85% of the designated sentence before they can be released.

Sexual Offender Registry

In addition to the prison sentence and fines a defendant might incur if found guilty of a sex crime, they can also suffer from consequences they may not be thinking about. For some crimes, the defendant, if found guilty, will be required to register as a sex offender.

The state's system organizes registered offenders into three tiers, which are based on their probability of re-offense. Examples of convictions that required the offender to register include:

  • Aggravated criminal sexual contact
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Criminal sexual contact against a minor.
  • Criminal restraint or false imprisonment of a minor.

Even if the crime falls into the lowest tier, the defendant will still need to inform the authorities of their presence in specific regions.

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

Being accused of a sex crime can be an incredibly overwhelming experience. Even if you are facing allegations that have no evidence to support them, the accusation may still tarnish your personal and professional lives. Thus, navigating your defense alone is not wise. It is incredibly important you work with a skilled attorney who understands what you are going through and knows how to advocate for your defense.

The Lento Law Firm attorneys know how difficult these situations can be. You may be wondering who to turn to or what you can do to get yourself out of these situations. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or go online today.

​​​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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