The New Jersey criminal justice system takes a zero-tolerance approach toward managing sex crimes throughout the state. Defending against allegations and charges can leave individuals in a daunting position as Salem's local prosecutors will move fast to convict and will address any accusations—even unfair ones—harshly. The threats to your future can easily be one of the following if you don't have the representation you need:
- Massive fines
- Years behind bars
- Sex offender registration
- Loss of professional licenses
- Potential for retribution from employers
Due process provides a pathway for defendants to assert their knowledge of the case and present evidence and witness testimony. But even when the accuser drops charges or Salem prosecutors fail to convict based on the facts of the case, defendants still face ridicule outside the courtroom. Individuals accused of sex crimes often face a drastically changed public perception, and simple allegations can quickly tarnish and harm one's relationships and professional career.
With your future on the line, the need for immediate professional help in Salem has never been more clear. You need the dedicated and reliable team of attorneys at the Lento Law Firm. Our Criminal Defense Team understands how New Jersey's localities like Salem pursue sex crime charges and how the prosecution seeks to convict. We acknowledge the nuances pertinent in every case and how they may influence the judiciary in criminal and civil processes, leading to an individualized foundation for defense before and during trials. To fight back against sex crime allegations and charges, call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 now to start your defense strategy, or use our online consultation form, and we will contact you.
How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?
One of the initial steps in determining how Salem prosecutors will approach sex crimes is the legal severity of the allegation. New Jersey's ranking system for crimes is used to create buffers between various types of charges, and each level of offense has minimum and maximum punishments allowed under state law. Below is a general overview:
- First-degree offense: at least ten and up to 20 years incarceration and a $200,000 fine.
- Second-degree offense: at least five and up to 10 years incarceration and a $150,000 fine.
- Third-degree offense: at least three and up to 5 years incarceration and a $15,000 fine.
- Fourth-degree offense: up to 18 months incarceration and a $10,000 fine.
- Disorderly offense: up to 6 months incarceration and a $1,000 fine.
Under Megan's law, New Jersey may enforce additional penalties for sex crime convictions. Each is assessed by its corresponding level of offense that will be paid as restitution to victims. For instance, first-degree convictions carry an additional fine of up to $2,000.
New Jersey will handle each allegation—civil or criminal—individuality. Therefore, the degree of offense will depend on the facts discovered early in the process, which Salem and area law enforcement authorities will determine. Various other factors will influence the charge, like the defendant's presumed motivations behind the alleged crimes or whether they were committed in an aggravated manner. However, there are some similarities that can be drawn from how New Jersey authorities typically proceed in managing sex crimes.
For example, sexual assault is usually given the rank of a second-degree crime. But if law enforcement officials discover the crime was carried out in an aggressive nature, it could then become first-degree aggravated sexual assault. Additionally, lewdness will generally be seen as a disorderly offense or a fourth-degree offense, depending on the location of the act and who may have been a victim.
Understanding Consent Laws
Just as the nature of the allegation is important, so is the victim—particularly the age or state of mind they were in when the alleged crime occurred. Like other states, New Jersey maintains consent laws to establish what legal parameters must be fulfilled to engage in mutual sexual acts.
Overall, individuals aged 16 and above can legally consent to an adult (an 18-year-old) in New Jersey. The following is a list of those who do not have the legal capacity to grant consent.
- Minors under the age of 16.
- Minors between 16 and 18 when the consenting party has a legal supervisory role over them.
- Those with certain severe mental or physical capacities.
- Unconscious or intoxicated individuals.
There is a distinction in the state's consent laws for individuals aged 13 to 16. Those within that age span may consent to each other only if neither consenting party is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is unconscious in any way, or has a disability that would leave them unable to grant consent.
Statute of Limitations
For all criminal and civil matters, New Jersey maintains statutes of limitations to protect due process to ensure the timely management of violations of the law and to protect the rights of defendants. In civil cases, accusers have up to 37 years beyond the age of majority (18 years old) to claim financial damage for sex crime allegations that occurred when the victim was a minor. For civil action brought for sex crimes when the victim was an adult, the statute of limitations is lowered to just seven years.
Criminal sex crimes have far different statutes of limitations. For cases involving sexual assault, the state maintains no statute of limitations, regardless of whether the victim was a minor or an adult. Therefore, charges can be brought against a defendant at any time. For criminal sexual contact, however, the statute of limitations is five years, with the time limit beginning when the accuser turns 18 or within two years of their acknowledgment of the crime.
How the Level of Intimacy Affects New Jersey Sex Crime Charges
The level of intimacy between the two parties during the commission of a sexual crime is also greatly important. New Jersey maintains a clear barrier between acts that involve sexual penetration and sexual contact. Typically, the former is treated as more legally severe than the latter. Although every case is different, the difference between the two could be a first-degree charge and a third-degree charge.
New Jersey defines sexual penetration as "vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse" due to 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."
Common Sex Offenses in New Jersey
While there are multiple types of offenses a defendant may be alleged to have committed, there are a few sex crime charges that are the most common. Below is a general overview:
- Aggravated sexual assault: a first-degree crime.
- Sexual assault: a second-degree offense.
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact: a third-degree crime.
- Lewdness: A fourth-degree or disorderly offense.
Whether Salem prosecutors are determining charges of lewdness, criminal sexual contact, or aggravated sexual assault, defendants should expect an investigation to begin immediately. When local law enforcement authorities are aware that a sex crime was allegedly committed—through witness reports or the alleged victim—they will begin confirming whether there are reasonable grounds to conduct an arrest.
Investigation and Trial Procedures
New Jersey maintains an expedited policy to manage sex crimes. The state government has tasked local authorities with advancing sex crime cases above a third-degree offense to prosecutors within 24 hours. Therefore, expect to have to defend yourself immediately. After the accused is arrested, the criminal justice system's process begins, and individuals will face the following steps:
- Arraignment: Defendants will appear before a judge for a reading of the charges, including information regarding the defendant's rights throughout all procedures.
- Bail: Under a conditional agreement, the defendant is released—typically with an amount of money paid as a promise to reappear in court at a later date.
- Discovery: Representatives for the defense and the prosecution will collect evidence and trade information to prepare for arguments in court.
- Other pretrial actions: Each sex crime case is unique with its own individual characteristics and circumstances. Depending on the case, some legal actions that could occur are evidence admission and disqualification, plea negotiations, attempts to have charges dropped, and other matters.
Pretrial steps are just as important as official proceedings before a judge. It will be the basis on which your defense is built. The time frame of the trial procedures will rely upon the facts of the case, how prosecutors proceed, and your representation as a defendant. With your future dependent on every step of the process, it's vital that you have the professional help you need to exhaust all options of defense, as the consequences from convictions can easily upset the balance of personal and professional life for a long time.
Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences
The consequences of sex crime convictions will depend heavily on each of the above facets of procedures, including the degree of the offense heard by the court and your representation. Although the presiding judge has the authority to impose all punishments allowed under New Jersey law, some are enforced automatically.
If the conviction is someone's second, they are deemed a habitual offender and must serve a five-year mandatory minimum sentence without the chance for parole. But both convictions don't have to be in New Jersey. All convictions in other states will influence the sentencing process. Unfortunately for defendants, mandatory minimum sentences are ineligible for reduction by a judge.
Sexual Offender Registry
Apart from fines and incarceration, convicted individuals must register as a New Jersey sex offender. One's entry into the state's online sex offender registry is not based on a sole conviction but on the probability of re-offense.
New Jersey's registry has three tiers ranked by the probability of re-offense, which is based on numerous factors. Depending on which tier offenders are placed in, they will have varying degrees of their personal information listed online and available to the public, such as their place of residence, general physical characteristics, and convictions.
The registry will also notify different community groups when the offender is in a given area like the following:
- Tier 1: Local law enforcement is notified regarding "low-risk" registrants.
- Tier 2: Local law enforcement, area schools, and certain community groups are notified regarding "moderate-risk" registrants.
- Tier 3: Local law enforcement, area schools, certain community organizations, and members of the public likely to encounter the registrant are notified of "high-risk" individuals.
Being placed on New Jersey's sex offender registry is a major, life-altering burden that will cause issues with everything from becoming ineligible to hold some professional licenses, applying for some home loans, affecting job status, and negative public perception. Considering the severe risk to your future, it's of the utmost importance to consult with a team of attorneys who understand how New Jersey localities like Salem handle sex crimes.
How New Jersey's Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team Can Help You
If you're in Salem, New Jersey, facing allegations or charges of sex crimes, the risk to your family, your career, and your future hangs in the balance. Whether it's hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, years of incarceration, or inclusion on the state's sex offender registry, a lifetime's worth of damage is possible. Prosecutors in Salem will begin building their case against you as quickly as they can, so act with the seriousness the situation deserves and get in touch with the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team.
Lento Law Firm attorneys are ready to speak with you now to begin building and implementing a defense strategy that prioritizes your due process rights and gives you the opportunity to tell your side of the story to the Salem prosecution. The New Jersey criminal justice system will take an aggressive approach to convict you when allegations of sex crimes arise. Make the investment you need to keep your future intact and contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 now or go online to schedule a consultation, and we will contact you.