Atlantic City Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer
When someone engages in a sexual act while they are under the age of 16 in the state of New Jersey, it is considered to be, under most circumstances, statutory rape. According to the law, the person that is under the age of 16 is too young to have a full capacity to be able to consent to the sexual act.
People who have been charged with statutory rape in New Jersey should seek the help of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney from the Law Offices of John Zarych can help statutory rape defendants understand the charges filed against them while helping build a defense that can decrease penalties or get the charges dropped altogether. Call (609) 445-3579 or visit our website to set up a free consultation or to learn more or about how the Law Offices of John Zarych can help you.
The Definition of Statutory Rape in New Jersey
Traditional rape is characterized by the use of force to commit a sexual act. Statutory rape is different in that one party is simply incapable of giving consent because they have not yet developed the capacity to. This inability to consent is included in the state statute, hence why it is called “statutory.” There is no requirement of force to be used in statutory rape; it depends on the age of each party.
Statutory rape is a strict liability crime, which means that the person that violates the law is guilty regardless of their intent or their mental state when they committed that crime (other types of strict liability crimes include the sale of alcohol to a minor, owning wild animals, and specific traffic offenses). As a strict liability law, the circumstances surrounding the crime are not usually relevant—whether or not the defendant knew that the other party was too young to consent to sex does not matter.
Romeo and Juliet Exception to Statutory Rape Cases
Statutory rape laws in New Jersey make it a crime to have sex with anyone under the age of 16. There are, however, close-in-age exemptions known as “Romeo and Juliet” laws that are intended to prevent couples that are both under the age of 16 from being charged with statutory rape. These “Romeo and Juliet” laws apply to anyone that is under the age of 16 but above the age of 13 but whose partner is no more than four years older than them. This means, for example, that someone who is 15 years old can legally have sex with someone who is no older than 19. However, in New Jersey it is a crime to have sex with anyone that is under the age of 13.
These “Romeo and Juliet” laws can either serve as a legal defense after the defendant has been charged or it can prevent them from being charged with statutory rape in the first place.
There are some cases in which the “Romeo and Juliet” laws don’t apply, however. When the older partner is a parent, step-parent, guardian, sibling, or any relative that is closer than a fourth cousin, the “Romeo and Juliet” laws don’t apply. They also do not apply to statutory rape charges if the older partner has a position of authority over the younger partner. They may be a teacher, coach, or boss.
Charges for Statutory Rape in New Jersey
There is no specific charge for statutory rape in New Jersey; rather, it is charged as a type of either sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, or criminal sexual assault. The charges that be received for statutory rape in New Jersey include:
- Sexual assault – This charge is made against anyone who has sexual contact with a minor that is younger than 13 while the defendant is more than four years older. Sexual contact means any type of touching that happens in a sexually gratifying way. This can even mean touching that happens with clothes on. Another act that can lead to a sexual assault charge in relation to statutory rape is sexual misconduct between someone who is between the ages of 13 and 16 and a person who is more than four years older than them. The penalty for this charge is five to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
- Aggravated sexual assault – This charge is made against anyone that has sexually penetrated a minor who is under the age of 13. It is a first-degree felony. The penalty for this charge is up to 20 years in prison and significant fines.
- Criminal sexual contact – This charge is made against a person that has sexual contact with a minor that between the ages of 13, 14, and 15 years old and another person that is at least four years older than them. It is a fourth-degree felony that has a penalty of up to 18 months in prison as well as significant fines.
Criminal Defense Lawyer for Statutory Rape Charges in Atlantic City, NJ
Anyone who has been charged with statutory rape in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is encouraged to seek the help of one of the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of John Zarych immediately. The lawyers at the Law Offices of John Zarych bring years of expertise and sensitivity to all of their clients’ cases. Schedule a free and confidential consultation today. Visit our website or call (609) 445-3579.