Sex crimes is the umbrella term for several crimes in New Jersey that are sexual in nature. Being accused of one or more of them can be overwhelming and scary. Not only do you have to defend yourself during the police investigation, but you must stay vigilant throughout the entire criminal (or civil) process, which can be slow and tedious. Moreover, there are serious and long-lasting consequences that accompany such charges.
Hiring a skilled criminal attorney is the only way to ensure you have a strong defense. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team will work diligently to protect your reputation, livelihood, and freedom. Call Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or go online to schedule a consultation. We're here to help.
How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?
In New Jersey, there are five degrees of sex crimes, which are based on the severity of the alleged act. The degree of the offense also determines the type of sentence a defendant might receive.
- First-Degree Offense: If a defendant is convicted of a first-degree offense, they are eligible for a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of up to $200,000.
- Second-Degree Offense: Defendants convicted of a second-degree sex crime face a maximum sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of up to $150,000.
- Third-Degree Offense: For third-degree offenses, defendants are eligible for a maximum incarceration of three to five years and a maximum fine of up to $15,000.
- Fourth-Degree Offense: These defendants can be sentenced to a maximum of 18 months in prison and a maximum fine of up to $10,000.
- Disorderly Offense: While these types of offenses are less serious than a felony, they still carry a conviction of six months maximum incarceration and a maximum fine of up to $1,000.
Typically, cases that involve rape, aggravated sexual assault, or other severe actions, fall under first-degree offenses, but crimes like indecent exposure and lewdness fall under fourth-degree crimes or disorderly offenses. Whatever you are charged with, Lento Law Firm can help defend against them.
Understanding the Age of Consent
In Sussex County, there are instances where both parties could have engaged in sexual activity, but one party may not have given real consent. There are certain parties that are unable to give real consent, including:
- Anyone under the age of 16.
- Anyone over the age of 16 who has a physical or mental difference or disability.
- Someone who is unconscious during the sexual activity.
- Someone over the age of 16 who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Anyone under 18 when the defendant is their parent, guardian, or supervising authority.
That being said, if both parties are between the ages of 13 and 16, the consent laws do not apply. So, if the parties are 14 and 16, they can legally consent to engage in sexual activity with one another, but if one of them is 12 and the other 17, or 13 and 17, the 13-year-old cannot legally consent, and the older party can be charged with a sex crime.
New Jersey Sex Crimes Statute of Limitations
Most states have specific time periods where criminal and civil charges can be brought against a defendant. These are called "statute of limitations" and are supposed to prevent evidence from disappearing, protect a defendant's due process rights, and encourage victims to come forward.
In civil cases for sex crimes, New Jersey law has very different statutes of limitations for cases depending on the victim's age at the time of the alleged incident. For example, if a victim was under 18 at the time of the attack, they have up to 37 years after their 18th birthday to file a claim. But if they were over the age of 18 when they were attacked, they only have seven years from the moment they acknowledged that they have a civil right to a claim that relates to the alleged incident to file a lawsuit.
Recently, New Jersey has decided to get rid of the statute of limitations for criminal charges of sex crimes like rape or sexual assault. Additionally, this change applies to both minor and adult victims. Unfortunately, this means that defendants can be accused at any point in time, which can be incredibly hard to go through. This is where Lento Law Firm steps in. They will begin negotiating with the prosecution to help get the charges dismissed.
Common Sex Offenses in New Jersey
There are several types of offense that fall under the "sex crimes" umbrella in Sussex County. Generally, though, these offenses all have sexual contact or sexual penetration in common. In New Jersey, these acts are defined as:
- Sexual penetration: vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse that happens when someone inserts something (either a body part or a foreign object) into another person.
- Sexual contact: intentionally touching another person's "intimate parts" directly or through their clothing to degrade or humiliate them or for sexual arousal or gratification.
The severity and degree of the incident is dependent on a number of things, such as:
- The victim's age.
- The defendant's age.
- The connection between the victim and the defendant.
- Specifics of the alleged event.
- What might have motivated or provoked the alleged event.
In New Jersey, the most common crimes defendants are accused of under the "sex crimes" umbrella are:
- Aggravated sexual assault: Sexual penetration of (a) a child under the age of 13, (b) a person between 13 and 16 years old (if the defendant is related to them or has disciplinary power over them), (c) with anyone if done while committing another crime, or (d) someone while threatening the use of force with a weapon or actually using force and injuring the victim. This is considered a first-degree crime.
- Rape: Sexually penetrating a person, no matter how slightly, while using physical force or coercion, or while the person is physically or mentally incapacitated, or under the defendant's legal control or supervision. This is a second-degree crime. It is also referred to as sexual assault.
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact: Committing sexual contact with another person while committing or attempting to commit robbery, kidnapping, homicide, aggravated assault, burglary, arson, or criminal escape. This is a third-degree crime.
- Indecent exposure: Exposing intimate body parts for sexual gratification when they know, or should reasonably know, a child under the age of 13 will see them, that other minors will see them, or are seen by someone who is unable to understand the sexual nature of the exposure because of a mental incapacity. This is considered a fourth-degree crime.
- Lewdness: Exposing intimate body parts that are observed by a nonconsenting person who would be insulted or alarmed by the act. If the victim is under the age of 13, it is considered a fourth-degree offense. But if the victim is over that age, then it is considered a disorderly offense.
Investigation and Trial Procedures
Once you have been notified of the charges against you, it is important you start preparing for your defense. This is especially true because sex crime charges in New Jersey tend to be expedited. The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General has specified in the past that local law enforcement personnel need to forward all sex crimes cases they think will be third-degree or higher to state prosecutors within 24 hours of becoming aware of them. Most of the time, though, law enforcement personnel will begin investigating the accusations right away.
After law enforcement begins their investigation, if they suspect an individual of committing the accused behavior and they find probable cause to charge them, they will arrest the suspect and inform the Sussex County prosecutors. The prosecutors will review the case's facts and initial evidence and determine whether the charges are appropriate. If they believe the charges are warranted, they will proceed with the case.
Prior to the actual trial, there are a number of times when the defendant will be able to assert their innocence:
- During the arraignment. An arraignment is where a judge reads the criminal charges to the defendant in court.
- At a hearing to set bail. The defendant has the chance to advocate for themselves and hopefully be released on the condition that they will appear in court during the scheduled times.
- During the discovery period. This is the period where the parties will exchange information and evidence they have discovered with one another.
- Throughout plea negotiations. At this point, prosecutors and defense attorneys will try to negotiate an agreement to either get the defendant to plead guilty or get the case against the defendant dismissed (it depends on the facts of the case).
- Other pretrial motions. There are various pretrial motions that either side can try to put forth before the actual trial begins, including motions to overturn the different forms of evidence, address legal matters, or have the charges dismissed.
Then, during the trial, both sides will have the chance to call witnesses, cross-examine one another's witnesses and evidence, and articulate their arguments to the judge, jury, or both in their opening and closing statements. If, after all of that, the court decides that the defendant is guilty of the accused sex crimes, they will hold another hearing to determine what sentence is fitting for this particular crime.
It is important to understand that when you are facing charges of sex crimes, the last thing you want to do is defend yourself. Not only are you limiting your ability to develop a strategic defense against the accusations, but you are placing a tremendous amount of stress on your shoulders.
Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences
As there are five degrees of sexual crimes in Sussex County, New Jersey, the only way to know what the mandatory minimum sentence a defendant might receive is to know which degree their allegation falls under. For instance, if a defendant is convicted of a second-degree sex crime more than once, they will be labeled a "habitual offender" – even if the first offense occurred outside of New Jersey. Habitual offenders will receive a minimum of five years in prison without parole, and because this is a "minimum" sentence, the court cannot reduce or postpone it.
However, there are times when minimum sentences can be reduced, but they have to fall under New Jersey's No Release Act. This act states that a defendant can be released early from their sentence as long as they have served at least 85% of it before their new release date.
Sexual Offender Registry
Another possible consequence of being convicted of a sex crime in Sussex County is mandatory registration on the sex offender registry. New Jersey legal system categorizes registered sex offenders into three tiers. These tiers are based on the defendant's probability of re-offending in the future.
The state's system organizes registered offenders into three tiers, which are based on their probability of re-offense. Offenders on Tier 1 have a low risk of danger to the public, Tier 2 have a moderate risk, and Tier 3 have a high risk. These tiers also determine who is notified when an offender registers on with the sex offender registry.
Additionally, the most common convictions that require a defendant to register on the sex offender list include:
- Criminal sexual contact with a minor victim.
- Sexual conduct that impairs or debauches the morals of a child.
- Conduct that endangers the welfare of a child by involving them in pornography.
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact.
- Aggravated sexual assault.
- Sexual assault.
- Promoting prostitution of a minor.
- Luring or enticing, kidnapping, criminally restraining, or falsely imprisoning a minor victim that is not the defendant's child.
How New Jersey's Premier Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team Can Help You
It can be incredibly overwhelming to be accused of a sex crime in Sussex County. Even if the allegations have no evidence to support them, they can still have serious consequences for both your personal and professional lives. As such, it is extremely important to reach out to an experienced criminal defense team who knows the ins and outs of sex crime charges in New Jersey.
The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team understands how scary this situation can be and will work tirelessly to ensure you are properly prepared. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or visit us online today.