It's one of those nightmare scenarios that make parents lose sleep at night. A call comes from your kid's school, from another parent, or sometimes the police are at the door: your child is being accused of engaging in some kind of sexual behavior – improper touching or sex acts, for example – without the consent of the other person involved. In many cases, both your child and their accuser are underage.
What can happen? What should you do?
The Law in New Jersey Regarding Minors and Sex
New Jersey law on the subject of sex and minors is complicated, depending on the age of the victim and the relationship between the victim and the person committing the sexual act.
That said, one thing is clear: Even in situations where New Jersey law might not criminalize consensual sexual contact between two young people – say where one is 15, and the other is 16 – where one of the two does not consent to the sexual contact, then the consequences can be serious. They are no different, except for being a juvenile case, from what happens if one adult sexually assaults another adult. And if your child is “adjudicated delinquent” of a sex-related crime, the consequences – including potentially having to register as a sex offender – can follow them for decades after they turn 18.
Not All Sex Acts Involving Minors Are Illegal
In cases where there is consent between two young people, sexual contact may not be illegal under New Jersey law. A lot depends on the age of the two kids involved.
Victims Under Age 13
Essentially, any sexual contact with someone under the age of 13 is criminal to some degree. The seriousness of the crime depends on the act that is committed and the relationship between the victim and the person committing the act.
Anyone who engages in “an act of sexual penetration” with a child under the age of 13 is guilty of aggravated sexual assault, which is a first-degree crime. Where the victim is under the age of 13, and the other person is at least four years older and “commits an act of sexual contact” with the victim, the person is guilty of sexual assault, a second-degree crime. Where the act involves “sexual touching,” the crime is aggravated criminal sexual assault, a third-degree crime.
Each of the definitions in quotes is explicitly defined in the New Jersey statutes.
Victims Aged 13 to 15
If the victim is aged 13 through 15, and “sexual penetration” occurs with a family member, guardian, or someone who has “supervisory or disciplinary power” over the victim, the person is guilty of aggravated sexual assault.
Victims Aged 16 to 17
If the victim is 16 or 17, and “sexual penetration” occurs with a family member, guardian, or someone who has “supervisory or disciplinary power” over the victim, the person is guilty of sexual assault.
Students Aged 18 to 21
If the victim is a student who does not have a high school diploma, and “sexual penetration” occurs with another person who is a teacher or school employee, the person is guilty of sexual assault.
The Lento Law Firm Can Help
As you can see, New Jersey law in this area is complicated, and the possible consequences if your child is “adjudicated delinquent” of improper or non-consensual sexual conduct can be extremely serious. You need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney – this is not something you should attempt to resolve on your own. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has years of experience helping parents resolve juvenile criminal issues in New Jersey. When your child is accused of a serious crime, you want someone on your side who understands the law, the courts, and the juvenile criminal justice system.
Don't wait – call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team today! We understand how difficult this is for you, and we are here to listen and help. Call 888.535.3686, or use our online form to schedule a confidential consultation today.