Being accused of a sex crime in Mays Landing can wreak havoc on your life and turn it upside-down. Your personal and professional reputations can be decimated, and the stigma attached to these crimes can be hard to shake long into the future – even after a complete acquittal or payment-in-full of your debt to society. The prospect of severe punishments such as long jail sentences and hefty fines – not to mention the possibility of being listed in the public online sex offender registry – can be overwhelming. And it's important to know that sex crime accusations can be leveled against anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, income bracket, or occupation.
The best thing you can do if you've been accused of a sex crime in and around Mays Landing is to contact an attorney who knows their way around New Jersey's Criminal Courts. The Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team has years of experience successfully representing clients in Mays Landing and throughout New Jersey for sex crime accusations and other serious criminal law matters. We understand what's at stake and will fight to protect your rights every step of the way. Call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online today to find out how we can help you.
How New Jersey Ranks Sex Crimes
New Jersey ranks sex crimes by level of severity. These levels – also called degrees – name the offenses and their associated penalties:
- Someone who commits a first-degree offense faces a maximum of 10 to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $200,000
- A second-degree offense carries a penalty of up to 5 to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $150,000
- For a third-degree offense, the maximum sentence is 3 to 5 years in jail and a fine of up to $15,000
- A fourth-degree offense carries a penalty of up to 18 months in jail and and a fine of up to $10,000
- For a disorderly offense, the maximum sentence is 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Serious sex crimes such as rape and aggravated sexual assault are usually first- or second-degree offenses. So-called lesser crimes, such as indecent exposure and lewdness, are generally categorized as fourth-degree and disorderly offenses.
Sex Crimes and the Age of Consent in New Jersey
The issue of consent is at the heart of many sex crimes in New Jersey. In order for there to be a crime under New Jersey law, the victim must either not have consented to the sexual contact or act or is considered legally unable to consent to the sexual contact or act. According to New Jersey Law, the following people may be unable to give consent within the context of sex crimes:
- Children who are under the age of 16
- People with mental or physical disabilities
- People who are unconscious
- People who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Minor children, when the perpetrator or defendant has parental or other supervisory authority over them.
There are some exceptions to these rules. For example, New Jersey has what's commonly referred to as a "Romeo and Juliet" law that applies when consensual sexual acts occur between people who are ages 13, 14, or 15, and the other person involved is no more than four years older than they are.
Statute of Limitations for New Jersey Sex Crimes
Generally speaking, the statute of limitations for a crime is a set period of time from when the crime is committed, within which the victim has to report the incident, and the government has to prosecute the accused person. In New Jersey, things work a bit differently when it comes to the statute of limitations for sex crimes.
For example, there's no statute of limitations for the crime of sexual assault in New Jersey, and the statute of limitations for criminal sexual contact and aggravated criminal sexual contact is five years.
There's a different timeline in place for civil lawsuits stemming from New Jersey sex crimes. New Jersey law enables sex crime victims who were minors at the time the crime occurred to file a civil lawsuit within 37 years of turning 18 years old. Adults have seven years to file a civil suit. The statute of limitations begins when the adult becomes aware of their right to a civil claim relating to a former sexual offense.
Knowing what statute of limitations governs your case is critical to mounting a successful defense. The experienced attorneys on the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team will help you understand how the statute of limitations applies to your case and advise you on the best course of action.
Common Sex Offenses in New Jersey
In New Jersey, various factors contribute to how the law categorizes sex crimes in terms of their severity and the punishment associated with each specific crime. To a great extent, the specific acts or actions that are involved in the crime, along with the age of the victim, play a large role in determining whether an act constitutes a first- or fourth-degree offense, for example, and how long the maximum jail sentence and/or maximum fine will be.
For example, New Jersey law distinguishes between sexual contact and sexual penetration when determining what offense was committed and what the punishment should be. In addition to these distinctions, the prosecutor will also take into consideration things such as the age of the perpetrator, the victim's age, whether there's a connection between the perpetrator and victim, whether a weapon is involved, and the perpetrator's intent.
Some of the more common sex crimes that are prosecuted in Mays Landing include:
- Aggravated sexual assault. Depending on the age of the victim, the age of the perpetrator, the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, whether there's a family relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, whether a weapon was involved, and the nature of the sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault is a serious and often a first-degree crime that carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in jail and a $200,000 fine.
- Rape or sexual assault is generally a second-degree crime that involves sexual penetration in a number of circumstances, including the use of force or coercion, the victim is under the defendant's legal control or supervision, when the victim and perpetrator are of certain ages, and certain years apart in age, and when the victim is a student.
- Indecent exposure and Lewdness. These crimes generally involve the perpetrator exposing their intimate body parts to others and are generally disorderly offenses that are punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. However, the penalty and degree can change depending on circumstances, such as when the victim is under 13 years of age.
- Internet sex crimes and child pornography. With the increasing use of the internet, the prosecution of sex crimes involving technology is on the rise. These crimes encompass a multitude of acts and violations that involve digital images, including sexting and endangering the welfare of children. Some of these crimes can implicate federal law in addition to New Jersey law.
New Jersey Sex Crimes Investigation and Trial Procedures
It's important to understand that the New Jersey criminal justice system takes allegations of sex crimes and sexual assault very seriously and has adopted a victim-centered approach to handling these crimes. In 2018, the Attorney General created new requirements and enhanced oversight for sexual assault prosecutions and investigations that require police departments throughout the state to report sexual assault allegations to prosecutors within 24 hours,
In Mays Landing, police will send their reports of sexual assault to the Atlantic County District Attorney's Office, which will evaluate the initial evidence and determine the appropriate charges (if any). As the matter moves forward, a defendant will go through the criminal court process:
- At the arraignment, there will be a formal reading of the criminal charges against the defendant.
- Bail may be set, which means the defendant will be released in exchange for posting a sum of money and promising to appear in court at a later date.
- During discovery, the parties have a chance to exchange information and evidence with each other and speak to witnesses.
- Plea negotiations may also occur, where the prosecution might agree to reduce the defendant's punishment and/or the number or severity of charges the defendant faces.
- The parties may make other pretrial motions, such as attempting to dismiss charges (and the case) and exclude evidence.
If the case goes to trial, the defense and prosecution will have an opportunity to give an opening statement and then present their cases. During the trial, each side can call and cross-examine witnesses and present evidence. Then, both sides will present their closing arguments before the jury deliberates and delivers its verdict. If they convince the defendant, the judge will schedule a separate sentencing hearing.
The criminal court process in New Jersey is complex and can take a long time to navigate and complete. If the case winds up going to trial, the stakes get even higher. This is not something you want to try to handle on your own. Working with the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team is your best chance at achieving the best possible outcome for yourself. Our team has years of experience successfully representing clients in serious criminal matters throughout New Jersey. We know the ins and outs of New Jersey's criminal criminal court system, and we'll fight to protect your rights every step of the way.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Some New Jersey Sex Crimes
People who are convicted of a second sex crime in New Jersey face the possibility of a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years in jail without the possibility of parole. This can be true even if the defendant's prior sex offense conviction happened in another state.
In addition, New Jersey's No Early Release Act (NERA) states that some people who commit certain crimes must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before they're eligible for release. Aggravated sexual assault is one of the crimes that fall under NERA.
New Jersey's Sex Offender Registry
In addition to long jail sentences and hefty fines, people who are convicted of sex crimes in New Jersey face the possibility of having to register as sex offenders and having their names and images posted in a public sex offender registry. Mays Landing has its own public, online registry for sex offenders.
People who are convicted of aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, and criminal sexual contact against a minor in Mays Landing will likely have to register as sex offenders. Failure to do so is a serious offense and can land you in even more hot water. If you've been convicted of a sex crime in Mays Landing, It's important to contact a member of the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team to ensure that you're in compliance with the registration requirements.
The Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team Can Help Anyone Who's Been Accused of Sex Crimes in Mays Landing
If you're facing sex crime allegations in Mays Landing or anywhere in New Jersey, you need an experienced legal team who knows their way around the New Jersey Criminal Court system. Your reputation, livelihood, and freedom are at stake, and there's too much riding on the outcome of the legal process for you to handle the matter successfully on your own.
The Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team has many years of experience successfully defending clients in Mays Landing and throughout the state who have been accused of sex crimes. We know how devastating a conviction for a sex crime can be to your life and livelihood. We'll fight to ensure that your rights are protected and that you obtain the best possible outcome. Call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online today.