When you are charged with a sex crime in New Jersey, like sexual assault, you can face the potential of extremely high punishments. One of New Jersey’s sex crimes is actually one of the few crimes that allows a life sentence. On top of that, you can always face the potential of having to register as a sex offender.
If you have been charged with sexual assault or another sex crime in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Our attorneys have real experience handling sexual assault charges, and may be able to help you get your charges reduced or dropped.
NJ Sex Crimes
New Jersey has two main sex crimes, both with the potential of years in prison and sex offender registration.
Under New Jersey’s laws, there is no crime called “rape.” Instead, the sexual penetration of another is called “sexual assault.” N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2 covers both sexual assault, and the more serious aggravated sexual assault. New Jersey’s definition of sexual penetration covers anal, vaginal, and oral sex, as well as the penetration of one’s anus or vagina with a penis, finger, hand, or object. It also covers situations where the victim is made to penetrate his or herself at the actor’s instruction.
Since sex is not in itself a crime, certain conditions must be met for this to be a crime.
First, it is aggravated sexual assault, under any circumstances, to have sex with someone under 13 years old. If the victim is between 13 and 16, then it is also aggravated sexual assault under certain family conditions:
- The victim is related to the actor within three degrees (by blood or adoption/marriage);
- The actor has the power to supervise or discipline the victim (e.g. is a teacher, boss, or other authority figure); or
- The actor is the victim’s legal guardian.
(Note that sex with someone under 16 is still a crime, but it is not “aggravated” sexual assault.)
Otherwise, it is aggravated sexual assault to have sex with someone under the following conditions:
- The actor uses force that causes severe personal injury;
- The actor has someone help them use force (whether or not it causes injury);
- The actor uses a weapon, or something the victim thinks is a weapon;
- The crime is committed during a “robbery, kidnapping, homicide, aggravated assault on another, burglary, arson or criminal escape,” whether completed or attempted;
- The victim is physically incapacitated or helpless; or
- The victim is mentally handicapped or otherwise unable to understand the sexual act for what it is.
It is sexual assault (non-aggravated) to have sex with someone under these conditions:
- The actor uses physical force that does not cause severe personal injury;
- The victim is on parole or probation, or is detained in a hospital or other facility, and the actor has some authority over their legal or job status;
- The victim is between 13 and 16, and the actor is at least four years older; or
- The victim is between 16 and 18, and any of the family conditions listed above are present (family relation, supervisory/disciplinary powers, or legal guardian).
Criminal Sexual Contact
Criminal sexual contact can be thought of as the less-serious version of sexual assault. This crime, under N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-3 includes “sexual contact” made under certain conditions. Sexual contact is basically any sexual activity that falls short of the penetration required for sexual assault. This means any touching of the genitals, buttocks, groin, inner thigh, etc., without penetration, whether over or under clothing. It also includes situations where the actor touches him/herself in sight of the victim. The touching must also be done to humiliate or degrade the victim, or to sexually arouse or gratify the actor.
Since sexual touching is also not illegal between consenting adults, there must be other conditions to make this a crime. The conditions for aggravated and non-aggravated sexual assault are the same conditions for aggravated and non-aggravated criminal sexual contact, respectively. This means that if the victim is under 13, force or a weapon is used, or any of the other age conditions are met, the crime of criminal sexual conduct is committed.
There is one situation where mere sexual contact, without penetration, is still sexual assault instead of criminal sexual contact: when the victim is under 13. This contact is automatically upgraded to sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Punishments in NJ
The crime of aggravated sexual assault is the worst of these crimes, with a punishment of 25 years to life in prison. Plus, 25 years must be served before the defendant may apply for parole. There is also a $200,000 fine for this first degree crime.
Regular sexual assault is a second degree crime that holds fines up to $150,000. Moreover, defendants face at least 15 years in prison and cannot apply for parole until they serve 15 years.
Aggravated criminal sexual contact is a third degree crime, punished by three to five years in prison and fines of up to $15,000. Criminal sexual contact is a fourth degree crime punished by up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000.
New Jersey Sex Crimes Attorneys
If you have been charged with one of these crimes, do not wait – talk to an attorney today. It is never too early to hire an attorney for serious charges like these. Call The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today for a free consultation, at (609) 616-4956.