Facing charges for sexual assault or any other sex-related criminal offense in New Jersey is an extremely serious matter. In addition to fines and imprisonment, you could also be facing registration as a sex offender, and some sex crimes carry the possibility of parole supervision for life. If you have kids, a conviction could result in loss of your parental rights, and if your case involves allegations of domestic violence, you could be at risk for other immediate and long-term consequences. With this in mind, if you have been arrested for sexual assault or any other sex-related criminal offense, you need to have a clear understanding of the laws that apply. Below is a brief overview from our New Jersey sexual assault lawyers.
New Jersey’s Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault Law
When Can You Be Charged with Sexual Assault or Aggravated Sexual Assault in New Jersey?
Section 2C:14-2 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes identifies two separate forms of sexual assault. You can be convicted of sexual assault for committing “an act of sexual contact” with a victim who is less than 13 years old if you are at least four years older of the victim. You can also be convicted of sexual assault for committing “an act of sexual penetration” under any of the following circumstances:
- You used physical force or coercion;
- The victim is between the ages of 16 and 18 and you have one of several specified relationships with the victim; or,
- The victim is detained, on probation or on parole and you have supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim.
Sexual assault is a second-degree indictable crime in New Jersey. This means that it carries penalties of five to 10 years in prison and up to a $150,000 fine.
Aggravated sexual assault, on the other hand, is a first-degree indictable offense. This is the most serious type of criminal offense under New Jersey law. A conviction for aggravated sexual assault can carry a minimum prison sentence of 25 years without the possibility of parole and a maximum sentence of life behind bars. It can also result in up to a $200,000 fine.
There are several factors that can elevate a charge from sexual assault to aggravated sexual assault. Please take a moment to review our more in-depth discussion of Megan’s Law, the types of cases we handle and how we can help if you’ve been falsely accused.
New Jersey’s Rape Law
What Constitutes Rape in New Jersey, and What are the Penalties for a Conviction?
In New Jersey, rape is considered a form of sexual assault (or aggravated sexual assault). Unlike many other states, New Jersey does not have a statute that is specific to rape. New Jersey’s sexual assault law covers the offenses that are commonly referred to as both rape and statutory rape and being accused of rape can lead to a charge for either a first-degree or second-degree indictable offense depending on the specific circumstances involved.
New Jersey’s Laws on Child Molestation and Endangering the Welfare of a Child
When Can You Be Charged with Child Molestation or Child Endangerment in New Jersey?
Similar to rape, child molestation is considered a form of sexual assault (or aggravated sexual assault) under New Jersey law. Sexual contact with a child who is less than 13 years old is classified as sexual assault if the assailant is at least four years older than the child, and sexual penetration with a child between the ages of 13 and 16 is classified as sexual assault if the assailant is at least four years older than the victim. Child molestation can be prosecuted as aggravated sexual assault in cases involving (i) an act of sexual penetration with a child who is less than 13 years old, or (ii) an act of sexual penetration with a child who is between the ages of 13 and 16 if the assailant is related to or has another close relationship with the child.
In contrast, New Jersey has a separate child endangerment statute. Under Section 2C:24-4:
“Any person having a legal duty for the care of a child or who has assumed responsibility for the care of a child who engages in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Any other person who engages in conduct or who causes harm as described in this paragraph to a child is guilty of a crime of the third degree.”
While New Jersey’s sexual assault statute only addresses “sexual penetration” and “sexual contact,” Section 2C:24-4 addresses all forms of “sexual conduct.” Additionally, while the sexual assault statute is specific to “sexual contact” with children less than 13 years old (and only applies when the assailant is at least four years older than the victim), the child endangerment statute does not include similar limitations. Thus, it is possible to face child endangerment charges under a much broader range of scenarios.
New Jersey’s Laws on Lewd Conduct and Indecent Exposure
What are New Jersey’s Penalties for Lewdness and Indecent Exposure?
“Lewdness” is a crime under New Jersey law. Under Section 2C:14-4, “[a] person commits a disorderly persons offense if he does any flagrantly lewd and offensive act which he knows or reasonably expects is likely to be observed by other nonconsenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed.”
Indecent exposure is considered a form of lewdness. However, while lewdness is a disorderly persons offense in most cases, indecent exposure can be prosecuted as a fourth-degree indictable offense in certain circumstances. In New Jersey, it is a fourth-degree offense to:
- “[E]xpose one’s] intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person under circumstances where the actor knows or reasonably expects he is likely to be observed by a child who is less than 13 years of age where the actor is at least four years older than the child;” or,
- “[E]xpose one’s] intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person under circumstances where the actor knows or reasonably expects he is likely to be observed by a person who because of mental disease or defect is unable to understand the sexual nature of the actor's conduct.”
Contact a New Jersey Sexual Assault Lawyer in Confidence
If you are facing charges for sexual assault or any other sex-related criminal offense in New Jersey, you need to discuss your situation with a lawyer promptly. To schedule an appointment with a New Jersey sexual assault lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., call 877-435-6371 or contact us online now.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending criminal cases as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our site, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.