South Jersey Sexual Assault Defense Attorney
Criminal defendants charged with sexual assault do not often receive much sympathy. Sexual assault and similar sexual offenses can carry very harsh penalties, so there is a lot on the line when we bring your case to a trial.
Sexual assault involves some sort of forced sexual penetration, no matter how slight. The offense is divided into two categories: sexual assault and the more severe aggravated sexual assault. Sexual assault charges are handled differently, and there are various laws unique to sexual assault cases. Sentencing, mandatory minimums, and plea negotiations might all be affected. Penalties may be very harsh, and defendants might face years or even life behind bars. It is not unusual for defendants to face other sexual crimes when charged with sexual assault. Our team can help you develop the best defense strategies possible for your unique circumstances.
For help handling your case, contact our South Jersey sexual assault defense attorneys. Sexual assault cases can be very emotionally charged, and it is best to proceed with a highly skilled lawyer. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4968 for a free case review.
What Constitutes Sexual Assault in South Jersey?
Sexual assault is defined under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2. The offense is separated into two broad categories. The first category is referred to as “sexual assault,” while the second category encompasses more serious acts and is called “aggravated sexual assault.” This category of sexual assault tends to involve more violent acts and offenses involving younger victims.
Specifically, aggravated sexual assault involves sexual penetration under specific circumstances. Aggravated sexual assault may be charged when the victim is under the age of 13. If the victim is older than 13 but still younger than 16, aggravated sexual assault may be charged if the defendant is related to the victim, has supervisory authority over the victim, or is a foster parent or other legal guardian of the victim.
Aggravated sexual assault can also be charged when it is committed during the commission of another felony, like a robbery or burglary, when the actor uses a weapon, or when the actor has help from others. If an actor coerces a victim into sex and injures them in the process, they may be charged with aggravated assault. Finally, if the victim could not consent because they were physically or mentally incapacitated or were incapable of consent due to a mental disease or defect, the actor may be charged with aggravated assault.
Ordinary sexual assault includes any form of sexual assault that would not be included as aggravated sexual assault. However, certain acts are considered ordinary sexual assault by statute. For example, if an actor makes sexual contact, not penetration, with a victim who is less than 13 but the actor is at least 4 years older, the actor may be charged with sexual assault. Sexual assault covers many situations similar to aggravated sexual assault, but the victim usually suffers little to no physical injury. Speak to our South Jersey sexual assault defense lawyers for help with your charges today.
What Laws Apply to Sexual Assault in South Jersey
Sexual offenses are very serious criminal charges, often tied up in rather complex and sometimes convoluted statutes. How the government handles sexual crimes is a bit of a hot-button issue, and the laws have been amended as public perception and morals have changed. As such, there are certain laws that apply to sex crime cases that do not necessarily apply to other criminal matters. Talk to our South Jersey sex crimes defense attorneys about what laws apply to your situation.
A protective order is a court order that aims to prevent the defendant from seeing or contacting the alleged victim. Protective orders often pose a big problem for the defendant because they are often prevented from seeing any children they might have with the alleged victim.
Protective orders are designed to be easy for victims to obtain and difficult for defendants to challenge. This can feel very unfair to defendants, but courts justify their actions based on the need to protect alleged victims. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-15(a), an alleged victim may seek an emergency, ex parte protective order from a judge. That means the defendant is often not present for this hearing and is not always given the opportunity to challenge the order until after it has been issued.
Protective orders are often temporary when first issued, but they can become final and permanent if the defendant is convicted. While our South Jersey sexual assault defense lawyers can help you appeal the order so you can see your family, it might not be easy, as judges tend to value the protection of alleged victims over defendants.
What Does and Does Not Have to Be Proven
In any criminal case, numerous facts, details, and pieces of evidence must be proven in court. In sexual assault cases, there are specific provisions under N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-5 regarding certain factors that may or may not need to be shown.
In many sexual assault cases, the issue of whether the alleged victim often comes up. Many defendants claim that they believed the encounter was consensual because the alleged victim never resisted. Under the law mentioned above, prosecutors do not have to offer proof that the alleged victim resisted the defendant. This usually means that claiming the victim did not resist is not a strong defense, even if the encounter was consensual.
The law also states that defendants are not presumed incapable of committing sexual assault or another sexual offense because of age, impotency, or marriage to the alleged victim. This also limits your possible defenses. For example, in cases where the defendant is very young, they cannot claim they were so young they could not commit the crime.
Finally, the law states that mistaking the victim’s age is not a defense, even if the mistake was genuine. This is important in statutory rape cases where the alleged victim is underage.
Penalties for Sexual Assault in South Jersey
Aggravated sexual assault in New Jersey may be charged as a first-degree crime, while ordinary sexual assault may be charged as a second-degree crime. Aggravated criminal sexual contact and regular criminal sexual contact may be charged as third- and fourth-degree crimes, respectively. Lewdness is a less serious sexual offense and may be charged as a fourth-degree crime or a disorderly persons offense.
Crimes of the first degree can be punished by at least 10 years but no more than 20 in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. A second-degree crime can be penalized by a state prison term of at least 5 years but no more than 10, and fines of up to $150,000. Third-degree crimes can be punished by a state prison sentence of no less than 3 years but no more than 5, and fines can be up to $15,000. Fourth-degree crimes can be punished with prison terms of no longer than 18 months and fines of up to $10,000. For minor disorderly persons offenses, a defendant could be sent to jail for up to 6 months and fined up to $1,000.
In addition to prison terms and fines, a convicted sex offender may be required to place their name on New Jersey’s sex offender registry. Once on the registry, a sex offender must regularly check in with law enforcement and may be restricted from living in areas near schools. The registry is available to the public, and some offenders may be required to inform neighbors about their sex offender status. For more information about potential penalties, call our South Jersey sexual assault defense lawyers.
Sentencing for Sexual Assault in South Jersey
A defendant convicted of sexual assault might face the penalties mentioned in the previous section. However, other possible penalties might come into play, depending on the circumstances. First, sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault sound very similar, but they are punished very differently. Second, repeat offenders may face higher mandatory minimum sentences.
According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2(a), aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree crime but comes with harsher penalties than ordinary first-degree crimes. According to this law, a defendant convicted of aggravated sexual assault faces 25 years to life in prison. On top of that, the defendant will not be eligible for parole until after 25 years. However, the law also allows prosecutors to negotiate plea deals for 15 years in prison with consideration given to the victim.
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-6, repeat offenders will face higher mandatory minimums. A defendant convicted for a second or additional offense of sexual assault will face a mandatory minimum of at least 5 years. While aggravated assault charges already come with a mandatory minimum of 25 years, ordinary sexual assault charges do not.
Other Sex Crimes in South Jersey
Sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault are not the only sex offenses a defendant could be charged with. Multiple additional sex crimes could potentially be charged. However, sexual assault tends to be the most serious offense. Whatever your charges are, our South Jersey sexual assault defense attorneys can help.
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-3, a defendant may be charged with criminal sexual contact. In many ways, criminal sexual contact is very similar to sexual assault. In fact, the statute explicitly states that criminal sexual contact may be completed under any of the circumstances listed for sexual assault. However, criminal sexual contact does not involve sexual penetration. The statute for criminal sexual contact does not mention any specific acts that could be charged. This means the statute is very broad and may encompass any sexual contact or touching that does not rise to the level of sexual assault.
Another sexual offense a person could be charged with is lewdness. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-4, lewdness is defined as a flagrant sexual act that the actor knows is likely to be seen by someone else. Acts of lewdness often occur in public and are witnessed by people who did not consent to see the act. This may sometimes be called “flashing” but may involve more than merely exposing yourself to others. For example, public masturbation might be charged as lewdness.
Sexual assault and other sex offenses can vary based on the severity of the act and the victim’s age. Charges involving minor victims tend to be prosecuted more harshly. Our South Jersey sexual assault defense lawyers can help you fight your charges.
Possible Defenses to Sexual Assault Crimes in South Jersey
There may be numerous possible defenses we can argue over in court, depending on the nature of the charges against you. It is important to go over your case in full detail with our South Jersey sexual assault defense lawyers so we can begin developing defense strategies tailored to your case.
One important element in sexual assault cases is consent. The defendant is often charged because the victim claims they did not consent to have sex with them. Unfortunately, victims are not always truthful about what happened to them. If you have any reason to believe the victim made is lying about the issue of consent, we can bring it up in court.
In other cases, victims are not sure who assaulted them. This is not unusual in cases where victims claim someone attacked from behind or wore a face covering to hide their identity. The victim might have incorrectly identified you as the person who assaulted them. If you believe this is what happened, our South Jersey sexual assault defense attorneys can help you clear your name with an alibi and evidence proving you were not the assailant.
In some cases, defendants do not have to assert their innocence or prove the victim is being dishonest. If there is a general lack of evidence showing that you are the assailant, we can simply argue that the prosecutor cannot meet their burden of proof, which is very high in criminal cases, and that your charges should be dropped or dismissed.
Call Our South Jersey Sexual Assault Defense Attorneys
If you face charges for sexual assault or another sex offense, you need help from an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our South Jersey sexual assault defense lawyers have the skills and experience to fight your charges. Contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4968 to schedule a free case review with us.