Statutory rape is a phrase you have likely heard on television or in the news. The term typically refers to consensual sex between an adult and a minor below the legal age of consent. However, the term “statutory rape” is not actually included in any official statutes and is technically not something a person can be charged with. However, the act of sex with a minor may lead to other very serious criminal charges.
Although there is no specific statute just for statutory rape, the concept of this offense is present in multiple statutes for various sex offenses. As such, if you are accused of statutory rape, you might be charged with anything from criminal sexual contact to sexual assault. There might also be charges for endangering the welfare of a child. Statutory rape allegations can lead to very serious charges with very steep penalties.
If you stand accused of statutory rape, you may be charged with several serious sexual offenses. You should speak with our New Jersey statutory rape defense attorneys about your case immediately. The team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can meet with you for a free case review, free from judgment. Call us right away at (609) 616-4956.
Criminal Charges for Statutory Rape in New Jersey
Statutory rape is not the name of a specific crime in New Jersey. However, the elements of statutory rape can be found under N.J.S.A. §2C:14-2 which governs sexual assault. Under the statute, aggravated sexual assault may be charged when a defendant sexually penetrates a person under the age of 13. Aggravated assault may also be charged if the alleged victim was at least 13 but younger than 16, and the defendant was a supervisor, legal guardian, or blood relative of the victim.
Ordinary, “simple” (non-aggravated) sexual assault may be charged if the defendant has non-penetrative sexual contact with the victim under one of the following conditions:
- The defendant forced or coerced the victim without causing severe personal injury.
- The defendant had supervisory power over the victim through their legal, professional, or occupational status.
- The victim is at least 16 but younger than 18, and the defendant is related to the victim, has supervisory power over the victim, or is the victim’s legal guardian.
- The victim is at least 13 but younger than 16, and the defendant is at least 4 years older than the victim.
- The victim is a student at least 18 years old but younger than 22 without a high school diploma, and the defendant is a teacher, bus driver, or another school employee with disciplinary power.
Any of these charges might encompass what people typically think of as “statutory rape.” When victims are underage or are otherwise unable to provide consent, especially when there is an imbalance of power between the defendant and the victim, a person could be charged with a sexual offense. Our New Jersey statutory rape defense attorneys can help you understand the nature of your charges.
Consent and Statutory Rape Charges in New Jersey
The statute does not state that force and a lack of consent are needed to charge a defendant with sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault when the alleged victim is so young. This means that if the victim was under the legal age of consent, which is 16 in New Jersey, consent is irrelevant. Additionally, charges akin to statutory rape may be assessed even when the victim is at least 18, but the defendant holds supervisory or disciplinary power.
Under these conditions, even a seemingly consensual sexual encounter may lead to criminal charges. The very idea of statutory rape is that it is a crime because the statutes say so, not because any force was used or because the victim did not provide consent.
Possible criminal charges could also include any number of other sexual offenses, like criminal sexual contact, if the alleged victim was underage. Charges related to child welfare and the endangerment of children may also be implicated. Consult with our New Jersey statutory rape defense lawyers about your situation, and we can help you determine your potential penalties.
How Do I Defend Myself Against Statutory Rape Allegations in New Jersey?
Statutory rape allegations are met with very little sympathy. Criminal charges are often very swift, and the penalties tend to be harsh. While you might feel extremely overwhelmed by your situation, our New Jersey statutory rape defense attorneys can help you develop the best defense strategies possible.
In general, it is not a valid defense to argue you did not know the true age of the alleged victim. For example, if the person you had sex with said they were 18, and you genuinely believed them to be 18, but in reality, they were 15, you cannot claim ignorance as a defense.
If you are charged with ordinary sexual assault involving penetration, you may defend yourself if you are less than 4 years older than the alleged victim. However, the victim must be at least 13 years old but younger than 16, and the defendant must be no older than 19. You may claim this defense, for example, if the victim is 15 and you are 17. These laws, sometimes called Romeo and Juliet laws, do not apply to cases of aggravated sexual assault.
We can also work to downgrade your charges if they cannot be dropped or dismissed. Cases of sexual crimes against children tend to evoke knee-jerk responses from law enforcement, prosecutors, and the public. The prosecutor might want to charge you with aggravated sexual assault when a lesser charge might be more appropriate. We can also negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors for a lesser charge with more manageable penalties. Speak with our New Jersey sex crimes defense attorneys about your defense strategy today.
Consequences of a Statutory Rape Conviction in New Jersey
The consequences of a statutory rape allegation may be life-changing and not for the better. If you are charged with aggravated sexual assault, you face charges for first-degree crimes akin to felonies in New Jersey. The sentencing for sexual assault charges is also stricter, and you could face 25 years to life in prison with no chance of parole until after the first 25 years. Ordinary sexual assault is a second-degree crime and may be punished with a state prison term of at least 5 years and up to 10 years.
On top of it all, you will likely be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. Every state has a sex offender registry, but New Jersey was the first state to implement such a system. Sex offender registration requirements will follow you no matter where you move, even if you leave the state.
Having the status of a sex offender may make finding jobs and housing very difficult, and you risk social ostracism as well. The true extent of statutory rape will depend on the unique combination of charges for your case. Our New Jersey statutory rape defense lawyers can help you review your case and understand exactly what you are up against.
Call Our New Jersey Statutory Rape Defense Attorneys
If you have been accused of statutory rape, the possible criminal charges can add up very quickly. Our New Jersey statutory rape defense lawyers are here to help you defend yourself and protect your rights. Schedule a free legal case evaluation with the team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Call us at (609) 616-4956.