Facing allegations and charges of sex crimes in Woodbury, New Jersey, is a daunting task, from defending yourself before a judge or jury to managing a changing public perception of your character. Although due process provisions allow defendants to explain their side of the story, gather evidence, and seek witness testimony for exoneration, efforts can be impaired by the towering authority of the New Jersey criminal justice system.
Despite laws for sex crimes being uniform throughout the state, New Jersey localities will handle the investigation, adjudication, and punishment stages. Woodbury's local prosecutors have authority from the state to take an aggressive, fast-paced approach to convict those alleged to have committed sex crimes and will address any accusations—even unfair ones—harshly. Unfortunately, the threats to your future can easily be one of the following if you don't have the representation you need:
- Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
- Years and even decades incarcerated.
- Mandated registration as a sex offender.
Even when charges are dropped, or Woodbury prosecutors fail to substantiate them, defendants still face punishment outside the courtroom. Those accused of sex crimes often face public ridicule, and just investigations into allegations can harm one's career and personal relationships. With so much on the line, the need for immediate professional help is more than prevalent.
When begin defending against sex crime allegations or charges in Woodbury, New Jersey, a valuable investment in your future is a dedicated and knowledgeable team of attorneys. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team understands how New Jersey's localities address and pursue sex crime charges. We recognize the particular nuances in every case and how they may influence the criminal and civil processes and provide the foundation for a solid defense. To assert your right to fair legal proceedings and to begin creating a defense strategy, call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 now or through our online consultation form, and we will contact you.
How Does New Jersey Rank Sex Crimes?
One of the most significant parts of how Woodbury prosecutors and the New Jersey justice system will approach allegations and charges is the severity of the act. Like other states, New Jersey has established a ranking system for crimes, with corresponding 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.
New Jersey may collect additional penalties for sex crime convictions. Each penalty will be assessed by its corresponding level of offense that will be paid as restitution under Megan's Law.
The level of charge will depend on the initial facts of any case, which Woodbury and area law enforcement officials will determine. Motivations behind the alleged crimes or the ways in which they were carried out are also noteworthy aspects that will influence the degree of the offense. Yet, there are some similarities. For instance, New Jersey localities like Woodbury will typically categorize indecent exposure as at least a fourth-degree offense, and handle aggravated sexual assault of a minor as a first-degree offense.
Understanding Consent Laws
The nature of consent during the commission of an alleged act is also weighted heavily when Woodbury prosecutors work to determine the course of events and how to proceed. Each state maintains consent laws to establish what legal parameters must be fulfilled in a mutual agreement to engage in sexual acts, and New Jersey is no different.
In New Jersey, individuals aged 16 and above can legally consent to an adult, and the following do not have the legal capacity to do so:
- Individuals under the age of 16.
- Minors older than 16 when the consenting party has guardianship or legal supervisory authority over them.
- Individuals with severe mental or physical capacities that limit their ability to grant consent.
- Unconscious or intoxicated individuals who are unable to communicate consent.
There is a slight caveat in the state's consent laws for minors aged 13 to 16. Those within that age span may consent to each other unless otherwise unconscious, intoxicated, or have a disability that would leave them unable to grant consent.
Statute of Limitations
New Jersey carries statutes of limitations on all crimes to protect due process for all parties in civil and criminal matters. For civil cases regarding sex crimes, accusers have up to 37 years beyond the age of majority—18 years old—to claim financial damage for allegations dating back to when the victim was a minor. For adult victims, the statute of limitations is just seven years from when the act happened.
In criminal cases involving sex crimes, there are different timelines. For criminal sexual contact, the statute of limitations is five years, with the time limit beginning when the accuser turns 18 or within two years of their discovery of the crime. For cases involving sexual assault, New Jersey has no statute of limitations, regardless of whether the victim was a minor or an adult.
How the Level of Intimacy Affects New Jersey Sex Crime Charges
Intimacy between the defendant and the accuser in the commission of a sexual crime also serves as a point of significance. New Jersey maintains a staunch threshold between acts involving sexual penetration and sexual contact, with the former regarded as more legally severe than the latter. Although every case is different, the distinction could mean the difference between 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
There are many legal terms used to build the definition of various sex crime used within the New Jersey criminal justice system. While there are multiple types of offenses a defendant can face, there are a few more common sex crime charges, like those listed below:
- Aggravated sexual assault: A first-degree crime defined by sexual penetration of a victim under the age of 13, with an individual between 13 and 16 if a familial or supervisory relationship exists, an act committed during the course of an additional crime, an act committed with or under the threat of force with a weapon or injures the victim.
- Sexual assault: A second-degree offense—involving sexual penetration with physical force or coercion—but without injury—when the victim is incapacitated or under the defendant's supervision or legal guardianship.
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact: A third-degree crime characterized by sexual contact following coercion or force that leads to a physical injury.
- Lewdness: A fourth-degree or disorderly offense involving a minor under the age of 13—or any act in which it is "reasonably expected" that the act will be observed by "nonconsenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed."
Regardless of whether Woodbury prosecutors are handling charges of lewdness, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault, expect an investigation to begin immediately. Once local law enforcement has knowledge of a sex crime through witness reports or from the alleged victim coming forward, they will begin establishing whether they have reasonable grounds to make an arrest.
Investigation and Trial Procedures
With New Jersey's expedited sex crime management policy, local authorities are tasked with forwarding sex crime cases above a third-degree offense to prosecutors within 24 hours. After the accused is taken into custody, they may find themselves engaged in the following:
- Arraignment: Sex crime defendants must appear in a courtroom before a judge for a formal reading of the charges. This stage will also include reading the defendant's rights throughout the process.
- Bail: As part of the formal charges, the defendant is released through an agreement between the defendant and the court system. This typically takes the form of an amount of money paid as a promise to reappear in court for proceedings.
- Discovery: Before the trial begins, the defense and the prosecution collect evidence and trade information to prepare for arguments before a judge or grand jury.
- Other pretrial actions: Each sex crime case has its own unique characteristics and circumstances. Therefore, some legal actions that could arise before the trial are disqualifying or admitting evidence, attempts to have charges dropped, plea negotiations, and addressing other pertinent matters.
The time frame of the trial procedures will rely upon the facts of the case, how prosecutors proceed, and your representation as a defendant. It's essential that you have the professional help you need to exhaust all options of defense, as the consequences from convictions are long-lasting and can easily upset the balance of personal and professional life.
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 (low risk): Law enforcement is notified.
- Tier 2 (moderate risk): Law enforcement, some community groups, and schools are notified.
- Tier 3 (high risk): Law enforcement, schools, community organizations, and members of the public likely to encounter the registrant are notified.
Inclusion in the registry presents a seemingly insurmountable burden for one's life, causing issues in everything from ineligibility for some careers to negative effects from licensing boards and the tarnishing of one's public reputation. Considering the risk to your future, it's essential to consult with a team that understands how New Jersey localities like Woodbury handle sex crimes.
How New Jersey's Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team Can Help You
If you face allegations or charges of sex crimes, the risk to your job, your family, and your future begins immediately. Woodbury prosecutors will build a case against you as quickly as they can. With the punishments through exorbitant fines, periods of incarceration, and being registered as a sex offender, a lifetime's worth of severe damage is possible. Therefore, act fast and protect your right to defend yourself with the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team.
Known in Woodbury and throughout New Jersey, the Lento Law Firm is ready to begin building and implementing your defense strategy, prioritizing your opportunity to assert your side of the story. The New Jersey criminal justice system and courts in and around Woodbury 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 you in Woodbury. Call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-3686 now or go online to schedule a consultation.