Like most states in the country, New Jersey takes an extremely tough stance on sex crimes. Sexual assault is among the most severe sex crimes in the state, and as a result, prosecutors are more than eager to carry out the full extent of the law.
If you've been accused of sexual assault in New Jersey, you're probably frightened and confused. This is understandable, as very few criminal charges carry a social stigma as long-lasting and damaging as this crime. From the minute you're accused to long after a conviction, you'll feel the ruinous effects of this charge. Offenders can attest to the fact that you'll likely be reminded of this past indiscretion for the rest of your life.
While there are people who harm innocent people through the commission of this crime, there are some people who have been falsely accused of such a serious crime - both of these parties deserve justice. This is why if you've been accused of sexual assault, this charge should be contested at every turn. Once you are convicted, your life will not return back to normal. A solid defense is the only answer.
Keeping this in mind, it is critical to work with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney to build the most effective defense available. Our attorney Joseph D. Lento at the Lento Law Firm has extensive experience defending these types of charges and navigating the criminal courts. He can build a defense that will lessen potential consequences you could be facing.
How Does New Jersey Define Sexual Assault?
In New Jersey, sexual assault is a legal term for rape. According to New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, sexual assault is the penetration, no matter how slight, in which physical force or coercion is used in which the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated.
The following elements must be present when committing an act of sexual penetration to constitute sexual assault:
- The perpetrator used physical force or coercion
- The perpetrator has legal, professional or occupational status that gives them power over the victim as in the case of prison inmate or probationer
- The victim is between 16 and 18 and is related to a perpetrator and the perpetrator has control over them
- The victim is between 13 and 16 and the perpetrator is four years older
A sexual assault sentence is enhanced to aggravated sexual assault when other elements exist in a case:
- The victim is younger than 13 years old
- The act is committed during the commission or the attempted commission of a robbery, homicide, kidnapping, aggravated assault, arson, burglary, or a criminal escape
- The perpetrator has a weapon or anything used so the victim will reasonably believe it is a weapon, and threatens by word or gesture to use the weapon or object
- The perpetrator is aided or abetted by one or more other persons and uses physical force or coercion
- The perpetrator uses physical force or coercion and severely injures the victim
- The perpetrator knew or should have known the victim was physically helpless or incapacitated, intellectually or mentally incapacitated, or had a mental illness, injury or disability that made them incapable of understanding the nature of the act, including, but not limited to, being incapable of providing consent
- The victim is between 13 and 16 and:
- The perpetrator has disciplinary or supervisory power of any nature or in any capacity over the victim
- The perpetrator is a parent, guardian, or has taken on a legal duty to care for the child within the household
- The perpetrator is related to the victim by blood or affinity to the third degree (could be related by marriage, a step-parent or an in-law)
Sexual Assault Penalties in New Jersey
Unsurprisingly, sexual assault is a felony. But the degree of felony depends on the nature of the crime and the age of the victim.
Generally, sexual assault is considered a second-degree crime. A second-degree crime carries penalties of a prison sentence between 5 and 10 years and a fine of up to $150,000.
Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree offense in New Jersey, and its punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
Aside from the severe prison sentences and costly fines that are imposed due to a sexual assault conviction, being forced to register as a sex offender is one of the most damaging consequences of sex crimes. Offenders have reported having had issues securing employment and finding a place to live.
Potential Defenses for Sexual Assault Charges
An indictment for sexual assault hinges on the aforementioned factors. The Lento Law Firm has an adept knowledge of the elements of a case that must be proven to prosecute a defendant of sexual assault, and therefore understands the potential defenses to assert that could disprove them. A defense can be so convincing that it causes a person's sentence to be reduced, a downgraded charge, or even lead to a dismissal of the case overall.
The witness is unreliable or the testimony was faulty. In sexual assault cases, it's usually the word of the victim against the word of the defendant. If a criminal defense attorney can prove that there were inconsistencies in the defendant's story, a court may deem a witness unreliable, or will discount the testimony.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
There are very few crimes that are prosecuted as harshly as sexual assault. A conviction of this crime can land you behind bars, and not to mention the severe damage a criminal conviction can have on your professional and personal life. To avoid a sexual assault conviction and the legal penalties that come with it, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you're looking for quality legal representation, the Lento Law Firm is the ideal firm for you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired stalking charges. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.