If you are under investigation for or have already been charged with an underage sex crime in New Jersey, you are likely facing far-reaching and long-term consequences. New Jersey has especially harsh penalties for these crimes. You may have to spend time in prison and pay a substantial fine. You may also be required to register as a sex offender for years, possibly even for the rest of your life.
If your name appears on the New Jersey Sex Offenders Internet Registry, you may never again experience the freedom of where to live, work, socialize, or spend time when you want. But remember, you are innocent until proven guilty, and there is still time to protect yourself and defend the charges against you.
At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, we can help you understand the charges against you, the penalties you may face, and the possible strategies we could use in your defense. Contact us today to speak with an experienced statutory rape lawyer in New Jersey.
What Is the Age of Consent in New Jersey?
Age of consent is a phrase that defines the legal age someone is considered mature enough to agree to sex. In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16. Criminal charges can be brought against anyone 18 or older who has allegedly engaged in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 16.
However, there are two exceptions to the age of consent in New Jersey. One exception raises the age of consent to 18 if the older party is in a position of authority, such as a teacher, boss, or coach. The second exception, the Romeo and Juliet law, is for teenagers participating in consensual sex if their age difference is less than four years and neither partner is under 13.
New Jersey’s Romeo and Juliet Law Explained
The Romeo and Juliet law in New Jersey makes an exception for teenagers who are close in age to each other and engage in consensual sex. This rule does not consider the older partner’s sexual activities to be a sex crime, so long as the:
- Minor is at least 13
- Age difference between the two people is less than four years
- Sexual relationship is consensual
- Sex crime is considered a low-level offense, meaning there are no forced sexual acts or violence
- Older individual was not already a registered sex offender at the time of the relationship
What Are the Different Types of Statutory Rape?
The term “statutory rape” refers to a sexual relationship between an adult and someone under 16. It is not a legal term in New Jersey, as it does not appear in the laws that define criminal sex crimes and punishments.
New Jersey law does have specific definitions of “sexual contact” and “sexual assault.” Depending on the nature of the sexual contact, a person can be charged with crimes categorized by their degree. In New Jersey, there are first, second, third, and fourth-degree sex crimes.
Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree crime. Several different situations fall under this category, all involving an act of sexual penetration. Some of these situations include a victim who is:
- Less than 13 years old
- At least 13 but less than 16 years old, and the accused is a relative or has supervisory or disciplinary power over them
- Physically helpless or incapacitated
- Intellectually or mentally incapacitated
The punishment for aggravated sexual assault of a victim less than 13 years old can range from 25 years to life. In other situations, the sentence is usually between 10 and 20 years.
Sexual assault is a second-degree crime. There are also several different situations under this category, including when a victim is:
- Less than 13 years old, and the accused is at least four years older than the victim
- At least 13 but less than 16 years old, and the accused is at least four years older than the victim
- At least 16 but less than 18 years old, and the accused is a relative or has supervisory or disciplinary power over them
The punishment for sexual assault is 15 years with no eligibility for parole unless the court accepts a negotiated plea agreement.
Aggravated criminal sexual contact and criminal sexual contact are third and fourth-degree crimes in NJ. Neither involves sexual penetration, but all the other victim conditions are the same. The punishment for aggravated criminal sexual contact is a state prison sentence of three to five years and up to 18 months for criminal sexual contact.
In addition to jail time, these crimes may also involve a monetary fine.
Do I Have to Register as a Sex Offender If I Was Charged with Statutory Rape in New Jersey?
New Jersey state law requires individuals convicted of certain crimes to register as sex offenders, including aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, and kidnapping. However, an attempt to commit such an act also requires registration as a sex offender in some cases.
Certain other sexual crimes involving the age of consent that may require sex offender registration include:
- Endangering the welfare of a child
- Luring or enticing
- Child pornography
- Criminal sexual contact if the victim is a minor
- Criminal restraint
- False imprisonment if the victim is a minor and the offender is not their parent
- Knowingly promoting the prostitution of a child
- Leading a child pornography network
Information on registered sex offenders appears on the New Jersey Sex Offenders Internet Registry and includes:
- The offender’s name and address
- Physical description
- Place of employment
- Vehicle description and license plate number
- Details of the crimes and methods
If you are charged with any sex crime that carries a possible requirement that you register as a sex offender, talk to a sex crime attorney immediately.