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NJ Sex Crimes – Sexual Assault & Harassment Laws

Rosenberg | Perry & Associates provides criminal defense options to adults and juveniles charged with sex crimes in Burlington County.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a sex crime, it is critical to have a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer who will fight to protect your rights and ensure your side of the story is heard.

Being charged with a sex crime in New Jersey can be an incredibly disruptive force — with ruinous potential — on every aspect of your life. Not only are you facing a potential criminal conviction and jail time, but there is also the potential for Megan’s Law registration requirements.

In New Jersey, the term “sex crimes” refers to any criminal charge involving sexual activity such as rape, child sexual abuse, prostitution, molestation, indecent exposure, and lewdness. No matter what the charge, you are presumed innocent and have rights under the law.

Rosenberg | Perry & Associates has represented people just like you. Our team has experience trying sex crime cases and is familiar with all aspects of the charges, the conviction, the investigation, and the potential risks of trial. Let us help you stand strong and fight for you.

Types of Sex Crime Charges in New Jersey 

  • Aggravated Sexual Assault, First Degree
  • Sexual Assault, Second Degree (Rape)
  • Endangering the Welfare of Children, Second or Third Degree
  • Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact, Third Degree
  • Criminal Sexual Contact, Fourth Degree
  • Lewdness, Fourth Degree or Disorderly Persons
  • Harassment, Petty Disorderly Persons Offense
  • Internet Sex Crimes
  • Sexting
  • Child Pornography
  • Child Molestation
  • Statutory Rape
  • Date Rape
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Prostitution
  • Human Trafficking
  • Failure to Register as a Sex Offender

Potential Jail Time for Sexual Assault & Sex Crimes

Aggravated Sexual Assault, 1st Degree 10 – 20 years or 15 to life
Sexual Assault, 2nd Degree 5 – 10 years
Endangering the Welfare of Children, 2nd Degree NJ 5 – 10 years
Endangering the Welfare of Children, 3rd Degree NJ 3 – 5 years
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact, 3rd Degree NJ 3 – 5 years
Criminal Sexual Contact, 4th Degree NJ 18 months
Lewdness, 4th Degree or Disorderly Persons NJ 6 months
Harassment, Petty Disorderly Persons Offense NJ 30 days

You might also be required to register for one or both the national and state sex offender registries for life. This can result in your picture posted online as a sex offender. And some sexual crime convictions require that you be placed on “Parole Supervision for Life” (PSL) which includes constant supervision by a specially assigned parole officer and restrictions on travel and internet access.

NJ Sexual Assault Laws

In New Jersey, sexual assault is the legal term for rape. Sexual assault in NJ is defined as “penetration, no matter how slight, in which physical force or coercion is used or in which the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated.”

    • First Degree Aggravated Sexual Assault
    • Second Degree Sexual Assault
    • Third Degree Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact
    • Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Contact
    • Statutory Rape

First Degree Aggravated Sexual Assault

In New Jersey, aggravated sexual assault is the most serious sex crime you can be charged with. The different types of aggravated sexual assault — involving sexual penetration — include:

  1. The victim is under 13 years old.
  2. The victim is 13 – 16 years old and the defendant was in a familial relationship with the victim, the defendant had supervisory/disciplinary power over the victim or the defendant was a parent/guardian of the victim.
  3. The assault occurred during the commission of another crime such as a robbery, kidnapping, murder, or arson.
  4. The defendant was armed and threatened to use the weapon to achieve a sexual advantage.
  5. The defendant was aided or assisted by one or more other persons in the assault.
  6. The defendant used physical force or coercion and the victim suffered a severe personal injury.
  7. The defendant knew, or should have known, that the victim was physically helpless — asleep, unconscious, unable to flee or unable to communicate unwillingness — mentally incapacitated or mentally defective.

If convicted of First Degree Sexual Assault (2C:14-2) you could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in state prison. You are also subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA), which would require 85% of any sentence to be served without the possibility of parole. 

New Jersey has also implemented the Jessica Lunsford Act, which applies to defendants charged with sexual assault of a victim who is less than 13 years old. The Jessica Lunsford Act governs both plea negotiations and sentencing after conviction. During plea negotiations, the Jessica Lunsford Act requires that any negotiated sentence must be for a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years with a 15 year period of parole ineligibility. If convicted, the defendant must be sentenced to between 25 years to life, with 25 years of parole ineligibility. 

Second Degree Sexual Assault

Acts of sexual penetration that do not qualify as Aggravated Sexual Assault are charged as Sexual Assault, a crime of the second degree. The different types of sexual assault — involving sexual penetration — include:

  1. The victim is younger than 13 years old and the defendant is older than 17 years old.
  2. The defendant used physical force, but the victim was not injured.
  3. The victim was under the control of the defendant (e.g., prison guard, parole officer, etc.).
  4. The victim is 16 – 18 years old and the defendant has control over them.
  5. The victim is 13 – 16 years old and the defendant is older by four years or more.

If convicted of second-degree sexual assault in New Jersey (2C:14-2b, c) you could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison as well as Megan’s Law registration and Parole Supervision for Life. 

Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact, 3rd Degree

In New Jersey, the charge of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact indicates the defendant intentionally touched the intimate parts of a victim or themselves for the sexual degradation or humiliation of the victim or the sexual arousal or gratification of the defendant in any of the following circumstances:

  • The defendant is a parent/guardian of the victim
  • The defendant is related to the victim
  • The defendant has disciplinary/supervisory power over the victim

Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact is a third-degree crime in New Jersey, a conviction may carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison with Megan’s Law Registration and Parole Supervision for Life (2C:14-3a & 2C:7-2b)

Criminal Sexual Contact, 4th Degree

In New Jersey, a defendant is charged with Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact if they intentionally touched the victim or themselves for their own sexual arousal or the sexual humiliation of the victim.

If convicted of Criminal Sexual Contact, which is a fourth-degree crime, you may potentially face up to 18 months in prison (2C:14-3b). If the victim is a minor, a conviction will also carry with it Megan’s Law Registration and Parole Supervision for Life.

Rape Kits

All rape kit evidence is preserved and maintained for at least five years. A sexual abuse nurse will conduct a Sexual Abuse Nurse Exam (“SANE”) utilizing a rape kit. 

According to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, all rape kits submitted in criminal investigations are tested as soon as they are sent to the State Police lab in Hamilton.

Statutory Rape

In New Jersey, the legal age a person can consent to participate in sexual activity is 16 years old. The statutory rape laws in NJ are violated when a person has consensual sexual intercourse with an individual aged 15 or younger. There is a close-in-age exemption allowing minors ages 13 – 15 to have sex with a partner up to 4 years older.

Successfully Defending A Sexual Assault Allegation

An accusation of sexual assault can be life-changing. Even a suspect with no prior criminal history can be arrested and incarcerated based upon little to no evidence of a crime. The penalties for some sexual crimes can result in a life sentence to prison. It is important to have an experienced advocate to guide you through the legal process and ensure that your rights are protected and the truth is told.

In the beginning stages of a case, it is important to avoid critical mistakes and be proactive in preparing a defense.

  • No matter what – never speak to the police or law enforcement about the allegations without consulting with an attorney. Many people believe that “if I just tell the police what happened this will go away.” That is almost never true. By the time the police ask to speak to you, they have likely already decided to charge you and nothing you say will change their mind. Also, with every word that comes out of your mouth you may be confirming details that a prosecutor would otherwise be unable to prove in court.
  • Preserve records! Text messages, social media messages, emails, phone calls, and other communication can often save a case. If there is any communication between a suspect and an accuser they should be retained so that the accuser can be confronted with their own words.
  • Get a lawyer immediately. Don’t assume that this “will just go away.” Sometimes obtaining counsel early can avoid charges being filed. A good lawyer will initiate a dialogue with law enforcement and a prosecutor to make sure that they are aware of evidence that may exonerate you.

After a suspect is charged the process can move very quickly in the beginning. It may be necessary to convince a Judge that you should not be incarcerated as the case drags on. It is important that an attorney be well versed in the case at that hearing. As the case proceeds there are a number of issues that must be addressed, such as

  • Forensic evidence or lack thereof
  • Illegal searches
  • Misleading statements of witnesses
  • Improper questioning of witnesses
  • Bias in the investigation
  • Delayed disclosure
  • Motive to fabricate an allegation

At Rosenberg | Perry & Associates our legal team has decades of experience from both the prosecution and defense perspectives. Our knowledge and dedication will focus on the best defense strategy and obtaining the best possible result in every case.

Lewdness, 4th Degree or Disorderly Persons

In New Jersey, a defendant is guilty of Lewdness if they commit a flagrant offensive act that they believe non-consenting people will likely see.

Lewdness is typically a disorderly person charge in New Jersey, but it becomes a fourth-degree crime when the defendant knows or reasonably expects to be observed by a child younger than 13 years old, if the defendant is at least four years older than the child or if they are observed by a person who is unable to understand the sexual nature of the defendant’s conduct due to mental illness or disease.

Evidence in cases involving criminal charges of Lewdness often relies on the alleged victim’s testimony as well as establishing a lack of consent which creates an opportunity to place the burden on a prosecutor to prove the statements are credible. 

It is important to have an experienced New Jersey sex crime defense lawyer who understands how to build a strong defense to a Lewdness charge to avoid a permanent conviction on your criminal record and being placed on a sex offenders registry.

Harassment, Petty Disorderly Persons Offense

Harassment is a petty disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. A defendant is charged with harassment if they purposefully:

  • Communicate anonymously, at extremely inconvenient hours, in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause irritation or alarm
  • Threaten or subject the victim to hitting, kicking, shoving, or other offensive contact/touching
  • Engage in any sort of alarming conduct or repeatedly commit acts to purposefully alarm or seriously annoy the victim

If the defendant commits harassment while in prison, on probation, or on parole for an indictable offense, they can be charged in the fourth degree.

Internet Sex Crimes

Internet sex crimes typically do not involve direct contact with another person but cover a range of inappropriate behavior using the internet, including:

  • Possession and/or distribution of child pornography
  • Sex crimes involving social media
  • Sexting
  • Internet solicitation of a minor (even if the plan is not carried out)
  • Sending explicit photos to a minor
  • Requesting explicit photos from a minor
  • Federal and state crimes involving computers

Endangering the Welfare of Children, 2nd or 3rd Degree

In New Jersey, a child is any person under the age of 18. Endangering the Welfare of Children, 2nd Degree, occurs when a child’s legal guardian or caretaker engages in sexual contact with that child “which would cause the child harm, impair the child’s morals, or cause harm in such a way that the child could be defined as an abused or neglected child.” Endangering the Welfare of Children, 3rd Degree, is the same as the second-degree charge, except the child is younger than 16.

Endangering the Welfare of a Child can include:

  • Child abuse
  • Child neglect
  • Child pornography
  • Child molestation
  • Sexual assault
  • Statutory rape
  • Driving while intoxicated while a minor is in the vehicle

A conviction for Endangering the Welfare of a Child, second degree, carries with it a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison with Megan’s Law Registration and Parole Supervision for Life. A conviction for Endangering the Welfare of a Child, third degree, carries with it a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. In some circumstances, a third-degree conviction will also carry with it Megan’s Law Registration and Parole Supervision for Life. 

Child Pornography 

Child pornography in New Jersey is defined as “the visual depiction of a person under the age of 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct.” If images are distributed or downloaded across state lines — downloading images in New Jersey from a server in California, for example — the case may be prosecuted under federal law.

There is no criminal charge in New Jersey for “Possessing Child Pornography”. Rather, Child Pornography cases in New Jersey are charged as Endangering the Welfare of a Child under 2C:24-4b. The charges range from third-degree up to first degree. The charges include:

  • First Degree –
    • Causing or permitting a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act and films/records the act. (2C:24-4b(3))
    • Distribution, intent to distribute or stores or maintains child pornography in a file-sharing program which is designated as available for searching or copying by one or more computers of more than 1,000 images of child pornography (2C:24-4b(5)(a))
    • Possession of 100,000 or more images of child pornography (2C:24-4b(5)(b)(i))
  • Second Degree –
    • Filming of a child in a prohibited sexual act (2C:24-4b(4))
    • Possession of more than 1,000 but less than 100,000 images of child pornography (2C:24-4b(5)(b)(ii))
    • Distributing or sharing child pornography, Possesses child pornography with the intent to distribute or stores or maintains child pornography in a file-sharing program which is designated as available for searching or copying by one or more computers less than 1,000 images of child pornography (2C:24-4b(5)(a))
  • Third Degree –
    • Possession of less than 1,000 images of child pornography (2C:24-4b(5)(b)(iii))

Child pornography sentencing laws have been amended to be much harsher for individuals convicted of possessing or distributing child pornography. Child Pornography convictions now have more mandatory periods of incarceration.

  • Distribution, Possession with Intent to Distribute or Maintaining a File Sharing Program with at least 25 but less than 1,000 images of child pornography – Mandatory period of parole ineligibility of between ⅓ and ½ of the sentence or 5 years, whichever is greater. 
  • Distribution, Possession with Intent to Distribute or Maintaining a File Sharing Program with 1,000 or more images of child pornography – Mandatory period of parole ineligibility of between ⅓ and ½ of the sentence or 10 years, whichever is greater.
  • Possession of 100 or more images of child pornography – Removes the legal presumption of non-incarceration and calls for mandatory imprisonment
  • Second or subsequent conviction for possession of child pornography – Extended Term sentence, which means that you will be sentenced one degree higher than your actual charge. For example, an extended-term sentence on a third-degree conviction would be 5-10 years in State Prison, rather than 3-5 years. 

Incest 

Is incest is legal in New Jersey? Yes, incest, as defined by New Jersey incest laws as consensual sexual relationships among adult relatives, is not a criminal offense. Incestuous marriages, however, are illegal. Also, New Jersey increases the severity of underage sex offenses if they are also incestuous.

Megan’s Law Registration Requirements NJ  

Megan’s Law is a statute enacted in 1994 requiring information about convicted sex felons to be available to the public. Megan’s Law is set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:7-2. Convictions or adjudications of the following crimes will require persons to register under Megan’s Law:

  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Aggravated criminal sexual contact
  • Criminal sexual contact (if the victim is a minor)
  • Kidnapping if the victim is under 16 years of age
  • Endangering the welfare of a child (in certain circumstances)
  • Luring
  • Promoting prostitution of a child under the age of 18
  • False imprisonment (if the victim is a minor)

If you are required to register and don’t, you could be charged with a third-degree offense of failure to register, which is punishable with three to five years in state prison.

Megan’s Law registration requirements also apply to juvenile sexual offenses.

Sexual Assault & Sex Crime Defense Attorneys

If you have been charged with a federal or state sex crime in New Jersey, you need skilled criminal defense. If your son or daughter has been charged with any of the above offenses as a juvenile, contact our Burlington County juvenile lawyer.

The legal team at Rosenberg | Perry & Associates will work with you to build an appropriate legal defense to your charges. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today.

 

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