There may be no criminal accusation that carries a bigger stigma in New Jersey than that of a sex crime against a child. Those who face such accusations are often in for uphill battles; no other area of law has a higher potential for wrongful convictions.
People who are convicted of sex crimes involving children in New Jersey often face very harsh penalties, including jail time and a lifetime presence on the state's public sex offender registry. Some lawmakers are now pushing for even stricter criminal consequences.
The Jessica Lunsford Act, which is currently stalled in both the state senate and the assembly, would create mandatory minimum prison terms for those convicted of the aggravated sexual assault of children under 13.
A version of the bill that was passed by the New Jersey Senate in October set this minimum sentence at 25 years. It also increased the criminal penalties for harboring sex offenders.
The state assembly has a similar bill sitting in a committee; the bill also includes mandatory minimum sentencing requirements but does not increase harboring penalties.
It is unclear whether these bills will advance any further during this legislative session.
The legislation serves as a reminder that it is necessary to protect the rights of defendants of such crimes. Blanket criminal sentencing requirements have the potential to yield unjust results.
Those who are facing aggravated sexual assault charges in New Jersey need to ensure that their rights are protected and that they understand their legal options.
Source: Press of Atlantic City, "Bill targeting child sex crime stuck in limbo," Donna Weaver, Aug. 14, 2013