New Jersey Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer
Rape is based on the concept of consent. When one party in a sexual act is too young to properly consent to that act, it is known as statutory rape. In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16. There are, however, some exceptions to the age of consent — for example, if both parties are under the age of 16, then it may be permissible under what is known as the Romeo and Juliet laws.
Those who have been charged with statutory rape in the state of New Jersey are advised to contact a criminal defense attorney that can help them make sense of their charges and craft a solid defense. Get in touch with the attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych to learn more about how they can help you defend yourself against statutory rape charges or to set up a free consultation.
Defining Statutory Rape in New Jersey
Statutory rape is a matter of consent. A person under the age of 16, according to New Jersey state law, does not have the full capacity to be able to consent to a sexual act. Their inability to consent is written into state statute, which is why it is called “statutory.”
Statutory rape is known as a strict liability crime. This means that someone who violates the law is guilty regardless of their intent or mental state at the time that they committed the crime. In the case of statutory rape, the age of the person with whom the defendant had sex makes them guilty regardless of whether they knew the age or any other factors or circumstances. Other types of strict liability laws include ownership of wild animals, selling alcohol to a minor, and certain traffic offenses.
In New Jersey, statutory rape is a sexual act that happens with someone who is under the age of 16. However, New Jersey has close-in-age exemptions built into the law. This is commonly known as a “Romeo and Juliet” law, which is intended to prevent underage couples that engage in consensual sex from being charged with statutory rape, assuming both parties are under or close to the age of 16.
Romeo and Juliet laws may prevent a couple from being charged in the first place, or they may serve as a legal defense against prosecution. These laws apply to people who are under the age of 16 but older than 13 and who have sex with someone who is less than four years older than themselves. Sex with anyone under the age of 13, however, is a crime in New Jersey.
Charges for Statutory Rape in New Jersey
In New Jersey, there isn’t a charge specifically intended for statutory rape; in fact, there isn’t a specific charge for rape itself. Statutory rape is charged as a type of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, or criminal sexual assault.
Statutory rape is charged as a type of sexual assault when there is sexual contact between a minor who is under the age of 13 and someone who is more than four years older than them. Sexual contact, according to a legal definition, can mean any type of touching done in a sexually gratifying way, even over clothing.
Statutory rape is also charged as a type of sexual assault when there is sexual misconduct between a minor who is 13, 14, or 15 years of age and someone (the defendant) who is more than four years older than them. This type of sexual assault charge is a second-degree felony and can carry between five and ten years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
Aggravated sexual assault charges can be directed against anyone who has committed statutory rape if they have engaged in sexual penetration with a minor that is under the age of 13. This is a first-degree felony that can result in a maximum of twenty years in prison, as well as significant fines.
Sexual contact between a minor who is 13, 14, or 15 years old and someone who is more than four years older can result in a charge of criminal sexual contact. This is a fourth-degree felony and can result in a penalty of up to 18 months is prison in addition to hefty fines.
Some cases of statutory rape that involve the caregiver of a minor can result in endangering the welfare of a child charges. It should also be noted that statutory rape charges are not applicable when a couple is married — the minimum age of marriage in New Jersey is 18, though minors who are 16 or 17 may marry with parental consent and minors 15 and younger may marry with judicial approval.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer for Statutory Rape Charges
If you have been charged with statutory rape, you are encouraged to seek the help of an attorney immediately. A qualified lawyer can help you determine whether the charges are valid and can help you respond in a way that will increase your chances of receiving a fair judgement. Reach out today to schedule a discrete, confidential, and free consultation with one of the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Call (609) 445-3579 or visit our website now.