Defending Autistic Adults
We understand that being charged with any type of crime is a very stressful event, both for you and for your family. Because of New Jersey’s harsh laws regarding sex offenders, the stress and concern are often even greater for those facing allegations of sexual misconduct of any kind. Even if you or your loved one has autism spectrum disorder, you may still face charges for illegal conduct.
Atlantic City sexual offense lawyer John Zarych has more than 25 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer. He is also a former trial lawyer for the federal government and has a proven track record of success in federal, superior and municipal courts throughout the state. If you or a loved one is an adult living with autism, call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today for a free consultation on your sexual assault charges. Call (609) 616-4956 today to discuss your case with our attorneys and to find out more information about what our services can do to help you fight serious penalties for sex offense charges.
Sexual Assault Defense Lawyer for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
In New Jersey, “sexual assault” is the name of the offense that many other states refer to as “rape.” This means that these charges are incredibly serious and carry some of the highest penalties authorized under the law. This crime is found under N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2.
A sexual assault offense in New Jersey consists of sexual intercourse with someone under circumstances that show they could not or did not consent to the acts. This can include vaginal sex, anal sex, oral sex, or penetration with an object. Clearly, consensual sex is not criminalized by this statute. Instead, the law aims to punish people who perform sex acts under the following suspicious circumstances:
- The aggressor uses force;
- The victim was incarcerated, or the actor has authority over the victim;
- The victim is 16 or 17 years old and is the actor is related to the victim, has authority over the victim, or is the victim’s parent or guardian; or
- The victim is 13-15 years old, and the actor is 4 or more years older.
If the circumstances are more serious, the crime could be upgraded to aggravated sexual assault. This occurs under any of these circumstances:
- The victim is under 13 years old;
- The victim is 13-15 years old and the actor is related to the victim, has authority over the victim, or is the victim’s parent or guardian;
- The sexual assault occurs during the commission of another crime;
- The actor is armed;
- The actor has help from another person;
- The actor’s use of force causes the victim “severe personal injury”; or
- The victim was “helpless” or unable to consent (e.g., drugged, asleep, or mentally incompetent).
A crime can also be upgraded to sexual assault if it involves the sexual touching of someone under 13. Even if there is no penetration, this crime counts as sexual assault.
Criminal Defense Attorney for Autistic Defendants
In many cases, adults and children with autism may not be able to fully understand concepts related to sex and consent. Generally, autism is not a disorder that would push someone to commit a crime. In fact, most adults with autism may avoid touching or interacting with others, and claims of sexual assault may be completely unfounded. On the other hand, some adults with autism may feel strongly toward another adult or a child, but they may not have the social skills or social development to understand where the boundaries should be. In many cases, the “crime” may not have come from any criminal intent or intent to harm the alleged victim, and the case should be dropped.
Any criminal charges require a mental state. In the law, this is known as “mens rea,” and the concept requires that there must be a “guilty mind” behind any illegal acts (the “actus reus”). Some offenses, like running a stop sign, are illegal regardless of the intent behind the act, but serious offenses like rape, sexual assault, molestation, and other sex offenses require a guilty mental state.
If the actor has a mental disorder that prevents them from forming the proper intent to commit the crime in question, the law may not hold them responsible. This kind of defense can lead to charges being dropped or dismissed. In cases where this defense does not win the case, it may justify reduced charges or penalties
The penalties from criminal charges are intended to prevent additional crime by scaring the defendant away from further crime. Many people with autism may not be able to appreciate or understand this deterrence. Serious penalties and jail time may also cause irreparable damage to people with autism spectrum disorders, and some penalties and jails may be completely inappropriate for autistic adults. This can help a judge decide to lower penalties if the case goes through.
In extreme cases, an insanity defense may be appropriate. If the accused is completely incapable of appreciating the crime, the penalties they face, the concept of right and wrong, or if they are not mentally equipped to understand the trial process, they may be able to plead insanity. This could help the actor seek mental health treatment rather than face criminal penalties for the offense.
Call for a Free Consultation with Our Atlantic City Sexual Assault Defense Lawyers for Autistic Defendants
If you or a loved one was charged with a sexual offense, but they have autism, call our law offices today. These charges may be unjustified, and there may be defenses available to have the case dropped. For a free consultation with our Atlantic City sex offense lawyers for adults with autism, call (609) 616-4956 today.