If you are facing a sexual assault charge in New Jersey, you are facing serious consequences. Depending on the specific charge (or charges) prosecutors decide to pursue, you could be facing up to life in prison with a mandatory minimum of 25 years without parole eligibility. Even lesser sexual assault charges can carry up to 10 years of prison time—with the requirement to serve at least 85 percent of your sentence before you are eligible for parole.
7 Key Facts About Facing Sexual Assault Charges in New Jersey
To build the strongest defense possible, you will need experienced legal representation. You will also need to work closely with your New Jersey sexual assault lawyer throughout your case. To help you make informed decisions about your next steps, here are seven key facts about facing sexual assault charges under New Jersey law:
1. There Are Two Main Types of Sexual Assault Charges in New Jersey
Under New Jersey law, there are two main types of sexual assault charges: Aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault. Rape is not a term that is used i New Jersey Law. Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree indictable offense, while sexual assault is a second-degree indictable offense. This makes aggravated sexual assault one of the most serious crimes chargeable under New Jersey law.
2. Sexual Assault Allegations Can Take Many Different Forms
New Jersey’s sexual assault law outlines several different forms of sexual assault. Under Section 2C:14-2 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, all forms of aggravated sexual assault involve sexual penetration. Prosecutors can pursue aggravated sexual assault charges in cases involving:
- A victim under the age of 13;
- A victim between the ages of 13 and 16 when the assailant is a relative, has another close personal relationship with the victim, or has “supervisory or disciplinary power;”
- A victim who the assailant knows (or reasonably should know) is “physically helpless or incapacitated;”
- Commission (or attempted commission) of certain other felony offenses;
- Threatened use of a weapon or simulated weapon;
- Use of physical force or coercion with the assistance of one or more other assailants; or,
- Use of physical force or coercion resulting in severe personal injury.
- The actor is armed with a weapon or any object fashioned in such a manner as to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a weapon and threatens by word or gesture to use the weapon or object;
- The actor is aided or abetted by one or more other persons and the actor commits the act using coercion or without the victim's affirmative and freely-given permission;
- The victim, at the time of sexual penetration, is one whom the actor knew or should have known was:
(a) physically helpless or incapacitated
(b) intellectually or mentally incapacitated; or
(c) had a mental disease or defect that rendered the victim temporarily or permanently incapable of understanding the distinctively sexual nature of the conduct, including, but not limited to, being incapable of providing consent or incapable of understanding or exercising the right to refuse to engage in the conduct.
The crime of sexual assault can involve:
- Sexual contact of any form with a victim under the age of 13 if the assailant is at least four years older than the victim;
- Sexual penetration involving a victim between the ages of 13 and 16 if the assailant is at least four years older than the victim;
- Sexual penetration involving a victim who is age 16 or 17 if the assailant has a familial or other close personal relationship with the victim;
- Sexual penetration involving an institutionalized victim perpetrated by an assailant who has “supervisory or disciplinary power” over the victim; or,
- Sexual penetration involving physical force or coercion.
- Sexual penetration and the victim is a pupil at least 18 but less than 22 years old and has not received a high school diploma and the actor is a teaching staff member or substitute teacher, school bus driver, other school employee, contracted service provider, or volunteer and the actor has supervisory or disciplinary power of any nature or in any capacity over the victim. As used in this paragraph, "teaching staff member" has the meaning set forth in N.J.S.18A:1-1.
3. All Forms of Sexual Assault Charges Carry Steep Penalties
No matter what allegations you are facing, a conviction in court will lead to steep penalties. For aggravated sexual assault, a conviction can carry a $200,000 fine and a life sentence. For sexual assault, a conviction can carry up to a $150,000 fine and 10 years in prison. For both types of sexual assault convictions, additional sentencing conditions may apply, such as parole supervision for life, mandatory sex offender registration under Megan’s law, and a variety of other long-term consequences.
4. Prosecutors Must Prove Your Guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Regardless of the facts of your case, prosecutors must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If prosecutors cannot prove that you are guilty, you are entitled to walk free. As a result, no matter what happened, you should speak with a New Jersey sexual assault lawyer before you make any decisions about how to handle your case.
5. There Are Several Potential Defenses to Sexual Assault Charges in New Jersey
While there are several forms of sexual assault, there are also several potential defenses to both sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault charges under New Jersey law. When you hire a New Jersey sexual assault lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will carefully examine the facts of your case to determine what defenses you have available. Some examples of potential defenses include:
- You have been falsely accused;
- Someone else was the assailant;
- The alleged victim, if an adult, consented to the sexual conduct in question;
- The government’s evidence is inadmissible because the police or prosecutors violated your constitutional rights; or
- Prosecutors do not have the evidence they need to convict you.
Since the prosecution has the burden of proof, you do not need to be able to prove your innocence to win a “Not guilty” verdict in court. So, while presenting evidence of innocence can be a strong defense strategy, even if this evidence isn’t available, your case isn’t over. When you hire a New Jersey sexual assault lawyer, your lawyer will evaluate all potential defense strategies and help you decide how to move forward.
6. Negotiating a Plea Deal May Be an Option
Generally speaking, plea bargaining is an option in New Jersey sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault cases—although restrictions apply in cases involving victims under the age of 13 and certain other circumstances. If avoiding a conviction at trial is unlikely, then working with your New Jersey sexual assault lawyer to seek a plea deal may be your best option.
7. Sexual Assault Convictions in New Jersey Are Not Eligible for Expungement
Finally, when weighing your options, it is important to understand that sexual assault convictions are not eligible for expungement under New Jersey law. As a result, if you get convicted, your conviction will stay on your record for the rest of your life. This means that even after you serve your sentence, your conviction will continue to impact your life in many ways.
Talk to a New Jersey Sexual Assault Lawyer in Confidence
If you are facing sexual assault allegations in New Jersey, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information. To speak with an experienced New Jersey sexual assault lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, call 877-435-6371 or reach out to us online now.