When you are arrested for a serious crime like sexual assault, it can seem like the end of the world. Not only do you face the potential of high fines, long prison terms, and required sex offender registration, but also the social stigma associated with sexual assault accusations.
Because these crimes are so serious, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. The experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych help fight cases for people accused of crimes in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, and throughout the state. Contact our attorneys today for a free, confidential consultation.
Definition of New Jersey Rape Crimes
New Jersey has two main sex crimes, each of which has a regular version and an “aggravated” version. These two crimes are “sexual assault” under N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2 and “criminal sexual contact” under N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-3.
Sexual assault is New Jersey’s rape crime, even though it goes by a different name. This crime punishes the “sexual penetration” of another. This definition includes any sex, whether vaginal, oral, or anal, as well as any penetration of the anus or vagina of another with a penis, finger, hand, or object. It also includes situations where a victim is made to penetrate themselves at the actor’s instruction.
Criminal sexual contact, on the other hand, is for sexual touching that falls short of penetration. This “sexual contact” includes any touching of the genital region, groin, anal area, inner thigh, buttocks, or breasts of another. It makes no difference whether the touching is over the clothes or under. Additionally, if the actor touches him or herself in the sight of the victim, this can still count as criminal sexual contact.
Since sexual intercourse and sexual contact are both legal between consenting adults, this crime needs extra elements. One of the following conditions is necessary for the non-aggravated version of either crime:
- The actor uses physical force or coercion that does not cause severe injury;
- The victim is on probation/parole or institutionalized in a hospital, prison, or other facility, and the actor has some control over the victim’s legal or job status; or
- The victim is between 13 and 16, and the actor is at least four years older than the victim.
In addition, if the victim is between 16 and 18, it is still a crime to touch or penetrate the person if the actor:
- Is related to the victim within three degrees (by blood or by marriage/adoption);
- Has supervisory or disciplinary powers over the victim (such as being a teacher, coach, or boss); or
- Is the victim’s legal guardian.
These conditions also make sexual contact or sexual assault into aggravated assault if any of them is present when the victim is between 13 and 16. This would normally be the non-aggravated crime, but these relations turn it into an aggravated crime.
The crime is also aggravated if any of the following conditions are present:
- The victim is under 13 years old;
- The actor uses force and has an accomplice help;
- The actor uses force and causes severe injury;
- The actor is armed with a weapon (or something the victim thinks is a weapon);
- The crime is committed during an aggravated assault, arson, burglary, criminal escape, homicide, kidnapping, or robbery;
- The victim is physically incapacitated or helpless; or
- The victim is mentally handicapped, such that the victim is unable to understand the nature of the conduct (or cannot provide consent).
Finally, under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b), sexual contact with a victim under 13 (if the actor is at least four years older) is sexual assault. This would normally be aggravated criminal sexual contact, but is instead upgraded to sexual assault.
Punishments for Sexual Assault in NJ
New Jersey classifies aggravated sexual assault as a first degree crime – the highest level of crime in New Jersey except for murder. Similarly, non-aggravated sexual assault is a second degree crime, aggravated criminal sexual contact is a third degree crime, and criminal sexual contact is a fourth degree crime. This helps demonstrate the seriousness of each offense in relation to the others.
Aggravated sexual assault is punishable by up to $200,000 in fines and a prison sentence between 25 years and life. A defendant must also serve 25 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Sexual assault (non-aggravated) has a fine of up to $150,000 and a prison sentence of at least 15 years. Defendants must also serve 15 years before becoming eligible for parole.
Aggravated criminal sexual contact has a fine of up to $15,000 and three to five years in prison. Criminal sexual contact (non-aggravated) has up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych can help with getting criminal charges dismissed or dropped in Egg Harbor. For a free consultation on your sexual assault charges in Egg Harbor, or any charges in New Jersey, call today at (609) 616-4956.