If you are facing a charge of statutory rape in Monmouth County, you need an aggressive attorney who will protect your rights and fight for your freedom. At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, our attorneys understand that statutory rape cases are rarely straightforward. We will dedicate our considerable resources, knowledge, and experience to preparing a compelling defense on your behalf. We have helped other Monmouth County clients get their charges dismissed or downgraded and will work hard to achieve the best outcome in your case.
What Is Statutory Rape?
Statutory rape refers to sexual intercourse between an adult aged 18 or older and a minor under 16. Generally, rape involves forced penetration without the victim’s consent. Because someone under 16 is deemed too young and immature to give informed consent, sex with a minor is considered rape under the definition laid out in the legal statute. It doesn’t matter if a person under 16 agrees to sexual intercourse. It will still be regarded as statutory rape.
Statutory Rape Laws in New Jersey
Under New Jersey law, there are three distinct statutory rape charges:
Aggravated Sexual Assault
Aggravated sexual assault involves an alleged act of sexual penetration in one of these circumstances:
- The minor is under the age of 13.
- The minor is at least 13 but under 16, and the adult is a relative or guardian or has supervisory or disciplinary power over the minor.
- The act occurs during the commission of a crime, such as a robbery or kidnapping.
- The adult is or implies they are armed with a weapon.
- The act occurs through force or coercion, and the minor suffers a severe injury.
- The minor was physically or mentally incapacitated and incapable of understanding what was happening.
A person may be charged with sexual assault in the following alleged circumstances:
- Sexual contact between a minor under age 13 and a person at least four years older than the minor
- Sexual penetration between a minor aged 13 or older but under age 16 and a person at least four years older than the minor
- Sexual penetration with the use of force or coercion if the minor does not suffer a severe injury
- Sexual penetration between a minor aged 16 or 17 and an adult who is a relative or guardian or has supervisory or disciplinary power over the minor
Criminal Sexual Conduct
Criminal sexual contact allegedly occurs between a minor aged 13 or older but under 16 and a person at least four years older than the minor.
Penalties for Statutory Rape Charges
The penalty for statutory rape will depend on which level of offense is charged:
- Aggravated sexual assault— Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree crime. The penalty is 25 years to life in prison, a fine of up to $200,000, or both.
- Sexual assault— Sexual assault is a second-degree crime with a penalty of 10 to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $150,000, or both.
- Criminal sexual conduct— For the fourth-degree crime of criminal sexual conduct, the penalty is up to 18 months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
In addition to prison time and a fine, a person convicted of statutory rape in New Jersey must register as a sex offender. They may face additional consequences, such as:
- Loss of the right to vote
- Loss of the right to own or possess a firearm
- Difficulty finding employment
- Difficulty receiving loans
- Limitations on their place of residence
- Inability to be on school grounds or other places where children gather
- Inability to work in certain industries, such as law enforcement, military, or healthcare
Common Defenses in Statutory Rape Cases
Statutory rape cases are often complicated, presenting opportunities for an experienced defense attorney to have the charges reduced or dismissed entirely. Common defenses in statutory rape cases include:
- Close-in-age exception— Commonly referred to as the “Romeo and Juliet” law, the close-in-age exception applies to sexual acts involving a minor between the ages of 13 and 15. If the adult is less than four years older than the minor, the older partner cannot be charged with statutory rape.
- Unreasonable search and seizure—The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. If the prosecution obtained evidence through an improper search, that evidence might be inadmissible in court, severely weakening their case.
- Coerced confession— If police obtained a confession illegally, it might be deemed inadmissible. For example, the police may subject the accused to hours of intense interrogation and badgering, where they would have said anything to get out of the situation. In that case, a defense attorney could argue that the confession was coerced.
It is important to note that mistaken age is not a defense against statutory rape in New Jersey. Even if the minor lied about their age or had a fake ID, the fact of their age remains.