Sex Crime Defense in Toms River

Toms River sex crime defendants can easily become embattled with allegations and charges fighting the fast-paced New Jersey criminal justice system. The investigation, adjudication, and sentencing stages can be intimidating as the final decision can determine the rest of your life. Although the state government passes and maintains all laws relating to sex crimes, New Jersey localities will handle every stage of the process. Toms River local prosecutors have the authority to take an aggressive approach to convict those alleged to have committed sex crimes and will address them in as little as 24 hours.

If you don't have the representation you need when allegations arise or charges are filed in Toms River, the following could be your future:

  • Years and even decades of incarceration.
  • Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.
  • Public registration as a sex offender.

Even when charges are dropped or Toms River prosecutors fail to make a compelling case against you, exonerated individuals can become vulnerable to punishment outside the legal system. Those formerly accused of sex crimes often face public ridicule, and even law enforcement investigations into allegations can harm one's career prospects and community relationships. With your future hanging in the balance, the need for immediate professional help has never been greater.

To help promote the best outcome when defending against sex crime allegations or charges in Toms River, New Jersey, get in touch with the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team. We are a dedicated and knowledgeable team of attorneys who fully comprehend how the state's localities pursue sex crime charges and convictions. Every individual's case has nuances, and our team understands how New Jersey's criminal and civil processes can provide the foundation for a solid defense. To assert your right to fair legal proceedings and to begin creating a strategy, call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 now or contact us through our online consultation form, and we will reach out to you.

How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?

One of the most influential parts of how Toms River prosecutors will approach allegations and charges is the severity of the act as determined by law enforcement officials. New Jersey has established a ranking system for all crimes with five degrees of offense, each with conforming maximum and minimum punishments allowed under the law. Below is a general overview:

  • First-degree offense: up to 10 to 20 years incarceration and a $200,000 fine.
  • Second-degree offense: up to 5 to 10 years incarceration and a $150,000 fine.
  • Third-degree offense: up to 3 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, the New Jersey criminal justice system may collect additional penalties for convictions. Each penalty will be assessed by its corresponding level of sex crime offense that is paid as restitution.

Regardless, the level of charge will depend on the initial facts of any case collected by Toms River law enforcement, who will also seek to understand the motivation behind the crime—which will also influence the degree of offense. However, there are some similarities between the charges and degrees of offense. For example, New Jersey localities like Toms River will typically categorize indecent exposure as at least a fourth-degree offense and handle sexual assault as a second-degree offense.

Understanding Consent Laws

Sex crime charges depend heavily on what occurred during the incident, but just as important is whether there was consent between the parties involved. Also, whether or not the parties had the ability to legally grant consent, each state maintains consent laws to establish what conditions must be fulfilled to engage in a legal, mutual agreement involving sexual acts. In New Jersey, individuals aged 16 and above can legally consent to an adult, and the following cannot:

  • People under the age of 16.
  • Minors above the age of 16 when the other party has guardianship or legal supervisory authority over them.
  • Individuals with certain severe mental or physical incapacities.
  • Unconscious or intoxicated individuals.

There is a slight caveat in the state's consent laws for minors within the 13 to 16 age range. Unless a 13, 14, 15, or 16-year-old is unconscious, intoxicated, or has a disability that would leave them unable to grant consent, they may consent to other minors in the aforementioned age range.

Statute of Limitations

For crimes committed in New Jersey—like in all other states—there is a statute of limitations for each. The parameter helps protect the rights of both parties in all legal matters. In civil sex crime cases, accusers have up to 37 years beyond the age of majority, which is 18 years old, to seek financial damage through the court system for allegations that occurred when the victim was a minor. The statute of limitations is just seven years when the accuser was already an adult.

In criminal cases, there are different timelines. For criminal sexual contact, the statute of limitations is five years, with the period beginning when the accuser turns 18 or within two years of their discovery of the crime. For sexual assault, New Jersey has no statute of limitations, no matter the age of the accuser.

How the Level of Intimacy Affects New Jersey Sex Crime Charges

As mentioned before, each sex crime has nuances particular to the case and how the events unfolded. Another factor involved in determining how the courts will proceed is the nature of intimacy between the defendant and the accuser. In sexual acts, the New Jersey criminal justice system holds a significant threshold between "sexual contact" and "sexual penetration," with the latter regarded as more legally severe than the former.

Below is a general overview of New Jersey's distinction between the two:

  • Sexual penetration: "Vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse" due to inserting a "finger, hand, or object."
  • Sexual contact: "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."

Although every case is unique, the difference could mean a second-degree charge over a third-degree charge. On the punishment side, it could push the potential for a few years behind bars to approaching a decade.

Common Sex Offenses in New Jersey

Even though all allegations of sex crimes originate from individual cases, there are more generalized charges maintained under the New Jersey criminal justice system. Although it's not an exhaustive list, below is an overview of a few more common sex crime charges:

  • Aggravated sexual assault: A first-degree offense explained as sexual penetration of a victim under the age of 13, with an individual between 13 and 16 if a familial or supervisory relationship exists, the act was committed during the commission of an additional crime, an act was committed with or under the threat of force with a weapon or the victim sustains an injury.
  • Sexual assault: A second-degree offense involving sexual penetration with physical force or coercion when the victim is incapacitated or under the defendant's supervision or legal guardianship, and no injury occurs.
  • Aggravated criminal sexual contact: A third-degree crime characterized by sexual contact following coercion or force that injures the victim.
  • Lewdness: A fourth-degree or disorderly offense involving a minor under the age of 13 or where it's "reasonably expected" that the act will be observed by "nonconsenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed."

No matter what the situation holds, expect the criminal justice system's steps to begin immediately. Once Toms River law enforcement has knowledge of a sex crime through a witness report or from the alleged victim, they will begin establishing whether they have reasonable grounds to make an arrest.

Investigation and Trial Procedures

When you're facing allegations or charges of sex crimes in New Jersey, don't expect that you will have ample time to decide how you will approach the situation. The state maintains a policy to expedite all sex crime cases above a third-degree offense, with information reaching local prosecutors within 24 hours.

After being taken into custody, defendants may find themselves in the following processes:

  • Arraignment: Before a judge in a Toms River courtroom, defendants must appear for a formal reading of the charges, including the series of due process rights afforded during the trial.
  • Bail: Under normal circumstances, the defendant is released through a conditional agreement between the defendant and the court system, typically an amount of money paid as a promise to reappear.
  • Discovery: Before the trial, the defense and the prosecution collect evidence and witness testimony, analyze all matters pertinent to the case, and trade information with one another to prepare for arguments.
  • Other pretrial actions: Other legal actions that could arise before the trial depend on each individual case, but some may include disqualifying or admitting evidence, working to have charges dropped, and negotiations for plea deals.

Even though defendants may have little time before Toms River prosecutors begin building their case against them, the time frame of the trial procedures will rely upon the facts of the case. But the biggest factor in how the New Jersey criminal justice system will proceed is your representation as a defendant. It's vital that you have the professional help you need to exhaust all options of defense, as the consequences of convictions are long-lasting and can quickly derail your personal and professional life.

Sex Crime Mandatory Minimum Sentences

The penalties associated with sex crime convictions will depend heavily on each of the above procedures, including the degree of the offense and your legal representation. Although judges have the authority to impose all sanctions allowed under New Jersey law, some are automatic.

If a defendant is convicted of a second crime, they will be deemed a habitual offender. New Jersey law will add a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for a habitual offender without the chance for parole. Importantly, both convictions don't have to be in New Jersey—convictions in other states will influence the sentencing process. Mandatory minimum sentences are also ineligible for reduction by a judge.

Sexual Offender Registry

Although the consequences of jail and fines are readily apparent, convicted individuals must also register as a New Jersey sex offender. Inclusion into the registry will rely on the facts determined in the course of the trial and is not based on the degree of offense but the probability of re-offense.

New Jersey has three tiers ranking registrants by the probability of re-offense—Tier 1 for the lowest risk, Tier 2 for moderate risk of re-offense, and Tier 3 for the highest risk. Depending on which tier offenders are placed in, they will have varying degrees of their personal information listed, such as their home address, general physical characteristics, and past convictions.

The registry will also notify different community groups when the offender is in a given area like the following:

  • Tier 1: Law enforcement is notified.
  • Tier 2: Law enforcement, some community groups, and schools are notified.
  • Tier 3: Law enforcement, schools, community organizations, and members of the public likely to encounter the registrant are notified.

Being placed on the registry presents a massive burden on one's life, causing issues in everything from losing professional licenses to the degrading of one's public reputation and more. Considering the threats to your future, you must consult with a team that understands how New Jersey localities like Toms River handle sex crimes.

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

The risk begins immediately when Toms River authorities pursue sex crime charges. With huge fines, long periods of incarceration, and becoming a sex offender, a lifetime's worth of damage is possible. Act now and contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team to defend against sex crime charges.

Known in Toms River and throughout New Jersey, the Lento Law Firm is ready to begin creating and applying your defense strategy, prioritizing your side of the story. The New Jersey criminal justice system and Toms River prosecutors will have a relentless approach to handling sex crimes. Make the investment you need to keep your future intact now and contact a team that is waiting to help. Call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 now or go online to schedule a consultation.

​​​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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