Different crimes and offenses have different time limits in which the state may criminally prosecute a defendant. These time limits are referred to as Statutes of Limitations. Generally, once a statute of limitation has elapsed, the state can no longer criminally charge a defendant for the crime. Some offenses have relatively short statutes of limitations. At the same time, other crimes may be so severe or heinous that there are no statutes of limitations and charges could be brought at any time. Sexual assault is a very serious offense in New Jersey and has its own set of rules regarding a statute of limitations. Read on to learn more about the statute of limitations for sexual assault in New Jersey from our Atlantic City sexual assault defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych.
If you have been charged with sexual assault, seek help from our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956.
Statutes of Limitation in NJ Criminal Cases Explained
As stated above, a statute of limitations is a rule which states how long the state may wait to bring criminal charges against a defendant. Statutes of limitations are important because, while many crimes take time to investigate, the government should not be allowed to prosecute someone when too much time has elapsed since the crime. Different states may have different statutes of limitations for each offense. Generally, more serious offenses tend to have longer statutes of limitations. Sexual assault, however, is perceived as very serious and therefore does not have a statute of limitations. A sexual assault crime may be charged at any time, no matter how many years have passed.
If you have been charged with a crime and believe the statute of limitations for your alleged offense has expired, you should immediately contact a Wildwood sexual assault defense attorney. Circumstances may exist that resulted in the time limit being tolled or adjusted, and you may still be prosecuted. However, if the statute of limitations has truly expired, you may have grounds to have the case against you dismissed.
How Long Can I Be Charged With Sexual Assault in NJ?
The definition for sexual assault in New Jersey can be found under § 2C:14-2 of The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. Sexual assault encompasses a number of different acts and may be committed under a variety of different circumstances. Sexual assault is typically charged as a second-degree crime, but aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree crime. In either case, the criminal act usually requires some form of sexual penetration and a lack of consent from the victim.
Due to the very serious nature of this crime, sexual assault has no statute of limitation. According to § 2C:1-6 of The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, a prosecution for sexual assault may be commenced at any time. Most other crimes have statutes of limitations of 5 years. Sexual assault, however, can be prosecuted over 5 years after the crime. Under the law, it could be prosecuted any number of years after the crime. This lack of a time limit is especially helpful for prosecutors and law enforcement because it is not unusual for sexual assault survivors to resist reporting the crime to the police. Sometimes police do not learn about a sexual assault until years after the fact.
A statute of limitations would also make it difficult for children who are victims of sexual abuse or a sexual assault to come forward and report the incident. Children are often unable to report the crime without an adult’s assistance, and children are also very often afraid to tell anyone about the assault or abuse. Many child victims do not come forward until they are adults.
What if My Sexual Assault Charges are From a Long Time Ago in NJ?
While the crime of sexual assault has no statute of limitations today, this was not always the case. In the past, sexual assault charges were subjected to a statute of limitation and would eventually be time barred. However, after the statute of limitations was removed, the New Jersey legislature decided that all sexual assault crimes, no matter how old, should face prosecution. In New Jersey, it does not matter how long ago the alleged sexual assault occurred. The indefinite statute of limitation on sexual assault was made retroactive. This means sexual assault crimes that may have been previously time barred under old statutes of limitations are no longer barred. In about 2001, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill that included a provision making the statute of limitations on sexual assault, or the lack thereof, retroactive. Older sexual assault offenses, even decades old offenses, can now be prosecuted even if they were previously off limits.
As of today, it does not matter when you allegedly committed sexual assault. It could have been one year ago or twenty years ago. You may still be charged. For help with your case, reach out to our qualified Brigantine sexual assault defense attorney to figure out how to fight your sexual assault charges. Just because the charges you face are old does not mean that you are guaranteed to be less likely to face a conviction without the help of an experienced Sea Isla City sexual assault defense lawyer.
Challenges Caused by the Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations in New Jersey
There are many challenges that defendants in sexual assault cases can face as a result of the extended statute of limitations. Support from experienced legal representation can be highly valuable when seeking to avoid the following issues in your case:
One concern defendants in sexual assault cases may regards the preservation of evidence over extended periods. With the extended statute of limitations, defendants may face allegations based on events that occurred many years ago. This can make it challenging to gather reliable information that supports their defenses. For example, memories fade, documents become lost, and physical evidence can deteriorate. All of these problems can potentially compromise the accused’s ability to present a convincing defense.
Difficulty Providing an Alibi or Locating Witnesses
Additionally, the extended statute of limitations in sexual assault cases can also inhibit a defendant’s ability to provide an alibi or secure witnesses testimony that corroborates their version of events. For instance, eyewitnesses may move away or pass away, making it hard to obtain accurate testimonies.
Witness testimony can be some of the most valuable evidence presented in a sexual assault case. Accordingly, the inability to locate pertinent witnesses can be devastating for a defendant’s case. If you are facing charged of sexual assault, then our legal team can offer help when searching for witnesses and reaching out for their potential cooperation.
Harmful Effects on Reputation
Defendants in sexual assault cases can experience harmful effects on their reputation. When facing allegations of sexual assault, even if they are unfounded or based on mistaken identity, you may experience serious damage to your reputation, personal relationships, and professional life. A mere accusation of sexual assault can lead to public scrutiny and damage to your standing in the community, even if you are eventually found to be innocent. This concern is particularly relevant when the allegations involve incidents that allegedly occurred years or even decades in the past.
Finally, the statute of limitations for sexual assault in New Jersey can cause potential defendants to endure a great deal of psychological distress. The fear of facing charges from an accuser years after an incident can have a highly detrimental impact on an individual’s wellbeing. The prolonged period of uncertainty combined with the potential assessment of criminal penalties is likely to create debilitating stress and anxiety.
What Are the Different Types of Sexual Assault You Can Be Charged with in New Jersey?
Sexual assault is a broad term. As defined by N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2, it occurs when one engages in sexual penetration (or sexual contact in some cases) without a victim’s consent. There are four different categories of sexual assault. Each of these categories is accompanied by different criminal penalties.
Aggravated Sexual Assault
Aggravated sexual assault is the most severe type of sexual assault charge you can face in New Jersey, and it can be charged under many circumstances. For example, you may be charged with first degree aggravated sexual assault you allegedly sexually penetrated a minor or someone with a disability. Further, you may be charged with this crime if the sexual act at issue was performed during the commission of another crime.
A conviction for aggravated sexual assault can be very serious, leading to prison sentences of up to 20 years, expensive fines, and registration as a sex offender.
Simple Sexual Assault
Second-Simple sexual assault is a very serious offense but carries slightly lesser penalties compared to aggravated sexual assault.
One way to be charged is when a defendant s an act of sexual penetration against a victim that is at least 13 years old but less than 16, and the defendant is at least four years older than the victim.
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact
Third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact is separate from the crime of “sexual assault,” but it can often be lumped under the colloquial term “sexual assault.” It is defined by N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-3. This crime happens when a defendant initiates contact with a victim’s intimate parts for humiliation or degradation, arousal, or gratification. This crime is often charged against victims under the same conditions that apply to aggravated sexual assault.
The penalties for aggravated criminal sexual contact include costly fines and a potential sentence of 3 to 5 years in prison as well as sex offender registration under Megan’s Law.
Simple Criminal Sexual Contact
Finally, a defendant in New Jersey can be charged with a fourth degree crime for criminal sexual contact if they intentionally touched the victim in a sexual way. Those who are charged with this offense may have to pay fines and spend up to 18 months in prison. Furthermore, if the victim was a minor, then the defendant will also have to register as a sex offender.
Is There a Difference Between Rape and Sexual Assault in New Jersey?
In some states, rape and sexual assault are listed as separate crimes. However, in New Jersey, criminal statutes do not specifically use the term “rape.” Rather, rape and statutory rape are the core conduct criminalized under the “sexual assault” statute, N.J.S.A. § 2C:14-2.
Contact Our NJ Sexual Assault Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know has been charged with sexual assault in New Jersey, contact our Atlantic City criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Contact our legal team by calling (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation regarding your case.