Sexual crimes and offenses are never easy to contend with. The alleged victims are often met with great sympathy and understanding while the defendant must fight an unfeeling court and public outrage just to hold on to their rights and protections. Emotions run especially high in cases involving child molestation or abuse. These kinds of cases often involve serious criminal charges and the potential for many years behind bars.
As a defendant in a child molestation or abuse case, you might feel like all the odds are stacked against you. However, you have rights and protections that nobody can take away, no matter how outraged they are over your alleged crimes. It is in cases such as these, where a jury is likely to make a decision based on anger and fear instead of evidence and logic, that you need a skilled attorney to fight for you.
If you have been charged with a crime involving child molestation or abuse, you need an attorney’s help immediately. Our Atlantic County defense attorneys for child molestation and abuse cases will stand by your side and work to protect you from overzealous prosecutors and emotional jurors. To schedule a free, confidential legal consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
Sexual Offenses Involving Children in Atlantic County
There is actually no singular charge for child molestation or abuse. Child molestation tends to refer to any sexual crime committed against a child or minor. These offenses are often charged as serious crimes. However, some lower level, no-violent offenses may be charged as disorderly persons offenses.
Aggravated sexual assault refers to an act of forced penetration on an unwilling victim. This crime can be committed against any person, but may be subject to enhanced penalties and charges when the victim is a child or minor. A defendant can be charged with aggravated sexual assault when their victim is less than 13 years old. A defendant may also be charged if the defendant is older than 13 but younger than 16, and the defendant is related to, has authority over, or is a legal guardian of the victim. Aggravated sexual assault is generally charged as a first-degree crime.
Sexual assault is like a step down from aggravated sexual assault as it usually involves less bodily injury to the victim. A defendant may be charged with sexual assault if they commit sexual penetration with a victim younger than 13, or at least 13 but younger than 16, and the defendant is at least 4 years older. A defendant may also be charged if the victim was at least 13 but younger than 16 and the defendant was related to, had authority over, or was a guardian of the victim. Non-aggravated sexual assault may be charged as a second-degree crime.
Criminal Sexual Contact
Charges for child molestation may also apply in cases where there was sexual contact but no penetration. Aggravated and non-aggravated criminal sexual contact may apply in cases that occur under the same conditions mentioned above for sexual assault, but there is no penetration. These charges may be imposed as third or fourth-degree crimes.
The crime of lewdness may be charged when a person exposes themselves to a child or in a place where they should reasonably expect a child to see them. There is usually no physical contact between the defendant and the victim. Lewdness is often charged as a fourth-degree crime when a child victim is involved. If you have been charged with any sexual offense involving a child, contact our Atlantic County child molestation and abuse attorneys.
Penalties for Child Molestation or Sex Abuse Charges in Atlantic County
Sexual crimes, especially violent ones, are often punished quite harshly. In fact, many of these offenses are penalized with enhanced sentencing conditions. Usually, these enhancements impose longer mandatory minimum sentences and longer prison terms overall. A defendant convicted of aggravated sexual assault eligible for an extended prison term may be sentenced to 30 years to life in prison. You should consult with our Atlantic County child molestation and abuse attorneys to determine if your charges come with any enhanced or upgraded penalties.
Defendants convicted of sex offenses may also be required to register as sex offenders on New Jersey’s public sex offender registry. Being on the registry means you must notify the authorities if you ever move anywhere within the state or outside the state. You will also be restricted from living in certain areas and banned from holding certain jobs. Failure to register or to notify the authorities of your whereabouts may result in additional criminal penalties. You can petition to be removed from the registry no earlier than 15 years after conviction or release from prison. More serious offenses, like aggravated sexual assault, do not permit removal from the registry at all. Call our Atlantic County child molestation defense attorneys for help.
Your Rights as a Defendant in Atlantic County Child Molestation Cases
Defendants charged with sex crimes involving a child are treated especially harshly by the authorities. Police are often under intense pressure to make an arrest, and prosecutors may be less willing to negotiate a plea bargain. However, defendants in child molestation or abuse cases have rights in a criminal trial like any other defendant.
You are innocent until proven guilty, although you might already feel convicted in the court of public opinion. Court officials and jurors may want to convict you just because the charges against you are so serious. Nobody wants to be on a jury that lets a child abuser go free. However, juries and courts must examine all the evidence and make an impartial and level-headed decision when deciding your verdict.
You also have a right to confront witnesses against you. If someone accuses you of molesting or abusing a child, you have a right to cross-examine that witness and any other evidence presented against you.
You, of course, have a right to a trial. You might feel some pressure from law enforcement and prosecutors to enter a guilty plea and just skip a trial. You might be told that the trial is unlikely to go your way, and it will be a long, stressful waste of time. However, you have every right to fight your charges in a court of law.
To discuss your case and the rights you have as a criminal defendant, contact our Atlantic County child molestation or abuse attorneys.
Call Our Atlantic County Defense Attorneys for Child Molestation or Abuse Cases
If you stand accused of child molestation or abuse, call an attorney for help as soon as possible. Our Atlantic County child molestation and abuse lawyers will help you challenge the charges against you and protect your rights. Schedule a free legal consultation with the team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956.