When discussing crimes of sexual assault, people often assume that all instances of sexual assault, including aggravated sexual assault, are acts of force. However, this is not always true.
New Jersey has numerous sexual offenses within its statutes, including sexual assault. This offense is divided into two categories: sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault. Aggravated sexual assault is a more severe form of this criminal offense, and defendants often face much harsher penalties. However, defendants do not necessarily have to face accusations of force to be charged. Many sexual offenses involve force, but many others do not, and the unlawfulness of the act might come from a different element. In fact, you can be charged with aggravated assault even though you are not alleged to have used force on the victim. It is important to understand how the use of force plays into your case because it will influence how we defend you in court.
If you or someone you know is facing sexual assault charges, our Brigantine aggravated sexual assault defense lawyers can help you. For a free case assessment, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
Degrees of Sexual Assault in New Jersey
Sexual assault under N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2 is an incredibly serious criminal offense divided into two broad categories. Sexual assault, while still extremely serious, is not quite as severe as aggravated assault. Both offenses may or may not involve the use of force. Our Cape May sexual assault defense lawyers can help you determine an appropriate defense strategy based on your charges and the details of the alleged offense.
Sexual assault is a rather broad offense that encompasses numerous sexual offenses. A defendant might be charged with sexual assault if they had sexual contact with a victim younger than 13 and the defendant is at least 4 years older than the victim.
A person might also be charged if they allegedly commit an act of sexual penetration under any of the following circumstances:
- Using coercion or without the victim’s consent, and the victim is not severely injured.
- The alleged victim was on probation or parole or detained in a hospital, prison, or other institution, and the defendant has supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim.
- The victim is at least 16 but still younger than 18.
- The defendant and alleged victim are related by blood or affinity, at least to the third degree.
- The defendant has supervisory power over the victim in any other nature or capacity.
- The defendant is a resource family parent, guardian, or has some legal parental authority over the victim.
- The alleged victim is at least 13 but younger than 16, and the defendant is at least 4 years older.
- The alleged victim is a student at least 18 but younger than 22, has not received a high school diploma, and the defendant is a teacher or school staff member with supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim.
Under the law, sexual assault is a crime of the second degree. Such an offense is punishable by at least 5 years and up to 10 years in prison. It should also be noted that only one of the above-mentioned circumstances calls for an act of force or coercion. While force is a possible factor in a sexual assault case, it is not necessarily required.
Aggravated Sexual Assault
To be charged with aggravated sexual assault, the defendant must be accused of committing an act of sexual penetration under any of the following circumstances:
- The alleged victim is younger than 13.
- The alleged victim is at least 13 but still younger than 16, and the defendant is related to the third degree, had supervisory or disciplinary authority, or was a parent or guardian.
- The alleged aggravated sexual assault was committed or attempted in the process of a robbery, carjacking, homicide, aggravated assault, burglary, arson, or criminal escape.
- The defendant is armed with a weapon or something the victim reasonably believes is a weapon.
- The defendant was aided or abetted by one or more other people without the victim’s consent, and the victim was injured.
- The defendant knows or should know that the victim is physically incapacitated, intellectually or mentally disabled, or had a mental disease or defect that renders them incapable of providing valid consent.
Aggravated assault is charged as a first-degree crime, one of the highest criminal charges on the books in New Jersey. While a first-degree crime is ordinarily punished by at least 10 and up to 20 years in prison, aggravated sexual assault comes with higher mandatory minimum sentences. Instead, the defendant faces a mandatory minimum of 25 years and up to life in prison.
Can You Be Charged with Aggravated Assault Without Using Force in New Jersey?
Not every instance of sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault needs to be accompanied by some alleged use of force against the victim. In many cases, defendants are charged with aggravated sexual assault even though they believe the sexual encounter was consensual. Our Egg Harbor aggravated sexual assault defense lawyer can help you determine the nature of your charges and how best to defend yourself.
Force is not necessary to be charged with aggravated sexual assault. For example, a defendant accused of sexual intercourse with someone younger than 13 need not have used any force to be charged. This is often referred to as statutory rape because the act is a crime by statute; it does not matter whether the victim consented.
In cases where force is a factor, the force is not necessarily physical. For example, a defendant might be charged with aggravated sexual assault because they coerced the victim into sexual intercourse through threats, intimidation, or other non-physical means.
Defending Against Charges of Forced Versus Aggravated Sexual Assault in New Jersey
Launching the best defense possible in any sexual assault case will require our Ocean City aggravated sexual assault defense attorneys to consider the presence or absence of force. If force is alleged, but you believe these allegations are false or incorrect, we can help you prove that you did not use force or that the other person consented to the encounter.
If force is not a factor in your case, we will have to examine other possible avenues for defense strategies. For example, suppose the alleged victim claims that you had a weapon at the time of the sexual encounter, thus elevating your charges to aggravated assault. We can help you prove that you did not have a weapon and that your charges should be reduced or dropped altogether.
Call Our New Jersey Aggravated Sexual Assault Defense Attorneys for Help Now
It is more than possible for defendants to be charged with aggravated sexual assault with or without the presence of force. Our South Jersey aggravated sexual assault defense lawyers can help you determine the best defense tactic for your circumstances. For a free case review, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.