Statutory Rape in New Jersey

Data from Child Protective Services for 2016 showed that over 57,000 children experienced sexual abuse. On average, 11% of girls and 2% of boys are abused or assaulted in a sexual manner by an adult. Females between the ages of 16 and 19 are roughly four times more likely to be victims of a sexual assault. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 47% of juveniles engage in sexual intercourse. About half of the juveniles report that their first sexual encounter was with a partner that was three or more years older.

The term statutory rape generally describes participating in sexual intercourse with a minor that has not reached an age where they are legally able to give consent. The age of consent varies by individual state statute and the offense is not necessarily one where the sexual activity occurs against the will of the minor. In New Jersey, the age of consent to engage in sexual activity is 16. Those 15 years of age or younger are unable to legally consent.

New Jersey Law

The age of consent is considered to be 18 rather than 16 if the older partner is a close relative or is in a position of authority relative to the younger individual. Examples would include a teacher or work supervisor. Otherwise, the age of consent to participate remains at 16.

Close-in-Age Exception

An exception to the law regarding statutory rape exists when the individuals are close in age. This applies when the younger individual is 13, 14, or 15 and engages in sexual relations with someone that is no more than four years older. It is often referred to as the “Romeo and Juliet” law that applies to such consensual acts.

Federal Rules 18 U.S.C. 2243(a)

The federal Sexual Abuse of a Minor law applies when someone participates in sexual activity with a minor between the age of 12 and 16 who is four or more years younger. An exception applies if the individuals are married to one another. New Jersey and Delaware are the only two U.S. states that require all individuals to be 18-years-old to marry. Over 240,000 children were married in the U.S. during the ten-year period of 2000 to 2010.

Aggravated Sexual Assault (2C: 14-2)

Aggravated sexual assault, commonly called rape, is a first-degree crime committed when sexual penetration occurs under the following circumstances:

  • Occurs with someone less than 13-years old
  • Occurs with someone who is 13 but less than 16 and
    • The offender is a relative or
    • The offender is in a role as a supervisor or is responsible for disciplining the child legally or based on employment or
    • The offender is a parent, guardian, or designated with caring for the minor
  • Occurs while committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense such as burglary, arson, etc.
  • The offender is armed with a weapon at the time or implies that they are
  • When the offender commits the offense through force or coercion and is aided by another person
  • The offender has knowledge that the victim has a mental or physical impairment that renders them unable to legally give consent to engage in sexual acts

Sexual Assault

A second-degree sexual assault offense is one that involves sexual contact committed under the following circumstances:

  • Involves a minor under the age of 13 who is four or more years younger
  • Applies to acts of sexual penetration when:
    • The minor is forced or coerced into participating in the activity but is not physically injured
    • The offender is in a role as a supervisor or is responsible for disciplining the child legally or based on employment
    • The victim is 16 or 17-years-old and:
  • The offender is a parent, guardian, or designated with caring for the minor
  • The offender is in a role as a supervisor or is responsible for disciplining the child legally or based on employment
  • The victim is either 13, 14, or 15 years of age and is four or more years younger than the offender

Endangering Welfare of Children (2C:24-4)

It is a second-degree offense for an individual with a parental or other legal duty to care for a minor exposes the child to sexual conduct that would “impair or debauch” the morals of the child. If the offender is someone other than a parent, guardian, or another responsible party it is a crime of the third degree.

If an individual facilitates or allows a child to participate in an unlawful sexual act that they know is being filmed, photographed, or otherwise depicted they may be charged with child endangerment of the second degree. If the offender is a parent, guardian, or another responsible party the charge is upgraded to a first-degree offense.   

Offense Level

Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

Added Sex Offender Penalty (Fine)

First Degree

10 to 20 years



Second Degree

5 to 10 years



Third Degree

3 to 5 years



Note: An added fine specifically for sexually-based offenses (2C:14-10) may be imposed as indicated above. These funds are allocated for the Sex Crime Victim Treatment Fund to provide counseling for victims and their families.

New Jersey Sex Offender Registry

Individuals convicted of serious sex offenses are required to register as a sex offender in a central database managed by N.J. State Police. The registry contains offender photos and their address. The registry is accessible to members of the community and for law enforcement who are investigating these types of crimes.

The registry was implemented under Megan's Law, which was named after a 7-year-old who was raped and murdered in 1994. There are currently over 4,300 offenders and dozens of noncompliant offenders whose whereabouts are unknown to law enforcement. Sex offenders relocating to New Jersey from another state are required to register within 10 days. There is a three-tier classification system as follows:

Tier 1

Lower risk to re-offend

Tier 2

A moderate risk to re-offend

Tier 3

High risk of re-offending

Offender Conditions for Pre-Trial Release (Section: 2C:14-12)

Those charged with a sexually-based offense may be released from custody during the course of the criminal proceedings on a conditional basis. The conditions will prohibit the alleged offender from making any contact with the victim or their family.

Lawyer Defends Against Sex Offense Allegations

Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands the demoralizing consequences that can result from being convicted of a serious sex offense. He practices exclusively in the realm of criminal defense on a daily basis. We encourage you to contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for a case 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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