Defending A Child Molestation Case
Contact Our Notch Attorneys for Immediate Assistance Defending A Child Molestation Case
One accusation that you molested a child has the potential to flip your entire life upside down. Whether the underlying charge is luring, endangering the welfare of a child, sexual assault or criminal sexual contact, a conviction carries sex offender registration under Megan’s Law plus the possibility of years behind bars. Rather unfortunately, charges of this nature are overwhelmingly brought on the basis of allegations alone and in the absence of any physical evidence or other corroboration. This fact makes it exceedingly difficult to resolve these cases without a jury making a determination as to who is telling the truth. Because of this, it’s imperative that you not only retain a skilled New Jersey criminal attorney but also one that has tried numerous child molestation cases. Know what you are paying for before handing over your credit card or writing a check because your life or your loved one’s is on the line. You cannot afford to hire a lawyer who has little or no experience when it comes to trying a child molestation case.
New Jersey Child Molestation Charges Overview
Essentially, there are five criminal offenses that come under the heading of child molestation or sexual abuse:
- first degree aggravated sexual assault;
- second degree sexual assault;
- endangering the welfare of a child;
- luring; and
- aggravated criminal sexual contact.
Each of these offenses requires different elements of proof, carry different penalties and have other unique characteristics.
First Degree Aggravated Sexual Assault Charge
The most serious charge a person can face in New Jersey for child molestation is aggravated sexual assault. This offense is detailed in N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a. It is a first degree offense. A person can be found guilty of aggravated sexual assault if they engage in sexual penetration under the following circumstances:
- With a minor child less than 13 years old;
- With a minor child who is at least 13 but younger than 16 and is related to the actor, being supervised or disciplined by the actor, such as a teacher or coach, or over whom the actor serves as guardian or similar capacity;
- During the commission or an attempt to commit a robbery, kidnapping, burglary, homicide, aggravated assault on another, arson or criminal escape;
- Employed force or coercion and inflicted severe personal injury to the victim;
- If the actor was armed or appeared to have a potentially deadly weapon;
- Was aided by at least one other person and caused severe injury; or
- The victim is found to have been physically helpless or incapacitated, intellectually or mentally incapacitated, or had a mental disease or defect that rendered the victim temporarily or permanently incapable of understanding the nature of his conduct.
A conviction for aggravated sexual assault can get you 10-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Further, the No Early Release Act (“NERA”) requires that the offender serve at least 85% of any sentence imposed.
Special Plea & Sentencing When The Victim Is Younger than 13 Years Old.
In 2014, New Jersey legislators placed restrictions on plea bargaining and sentencing in cases where the victim of an aggravated assault is under 13 under the Lunsford Act. In this regard, a mandatory minimum prison sentence exists. The minimum is 25 years to life, with no possibility of parole until 25 years have been served. In addition, the state is forbidden from offering any less than 15 years in prison to resolve this type of case via plea agreement. Both Megan’s Law and Parole Supervision for Life (“PSL”) get triggered by a conviction for aggravated sexual assault of a minor.
Second Degree Sexual Assault Charges
A person may also be charged with a second degree crime for child molestation for committing a sexual assault. A sexual assault takes place in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b if the actor engages in sexual contact with someone who is under 13 years old and the actor is at least four years older than the victim. A sexual assault has also happened if there is sexual penetration in the following situations:
- The actor employs physical force or coercion, but the victim sustains no severe personal injury;
- The victim is on probation or parole, or is detained in a hospital, prison or other institution and the actor wields supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the actor’s legal, professional or occupational position;
- The victim is at least 16 but less than 18 years of age and the actor is either related to the victim, had authority or supervision over the victim, or acts as guardian or a similar role for the victim; or
- The victim is at least 13 but younger than 16 years old and the Sexual assault is a crime of the second degree.
A second degree sexual assault conviction carries 5-10 years in prison and a fine that can reach a whopping $150,000. Again, NERA requires that 85% of any prison sentence imposed be served before the defendant can become eligible for release on parole. A sexual assault conviction also triggers the requirement for mandatory registration under Megan’s Law and PSL.
Charges of Endangering the Welfare of a Child in New Jersey
Another crime that can fall under the rubric of child molestation in New Jersey is endangering the welfare of a child, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4. An individual commits this offense if they are a person who “engages in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child”.
This is a second degree crime when the actor violates this law despite having a legal duty of care for the child or having assumed responsibility for the care of a child. It is a third degree crime when the parties are not connect by such a duty or responsibility.
Third degree endangering the welfare of a child based on sexual misconduct carries a fine of up to $15,000 and 3-5 years in prison. Second degree endangering the welfare of the child can result in 5-10 years in prison and a fine as high as $150,000. The No Early Release Act also applies to this charge. Convicts must serve 85% of their sentence before they become eligible for parole. A conviction for either degree of endangering comes under Megan’s Law and Parole Supervision for Life.
Luring Charges in New Jersey
The statute N.J.S.A. 2C:13-6 makes it a second degree offense to try to lure or entice a child “into a motor vehicle, structure or isolated area, or to meet or appear at any other place, with a purpose to commit a criminal offense with or against the child.”
An attempt takes place in violation of the NJ Luring Law if the actor takes a substantial action toward commission of the offense. This occurs if they use the internet or any other means to prompt the child (or someone posing as a child) to meet them for a sexual encounter.
The consequences for the offense of luring a child include a fine of up to $150,000 and 5-10 years inside. A conviction also comes within both Megan’s Law (required sex offender registration) and Parole Supervision for Life (PSL).
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact Charge in New Jersey
The least egregious form of child sexual abuse or molestation is criminal sexual contact in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3a. This crime occurs if an adult has “sexual contact” with a minor child under the circumstances outlined above in circumstances 2 through 7 under the heading First Degree Aggravated Sexual Assault. Note that sexual contact falling under number 1 does not result in a charge of aggravated criminal sexual contact because it is graded higher as a sexual assault (i.e. sexual contact with someone under 13 is not aggravated criminal sexual contact but, instead, it is sexual assault).
Aggravated criminal sexual contact is a third degree offense that can get you 3-5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Aggravated criminal sexual contact also comes under sex offender registration in accordance with Megan’s Law.
Given the severity of the consequences that a person will face if a child molestation charge results in a conviction, it is of critical importance to secure representation from the very best New Jersey criminal defense attorney you can retain.
Contact Our Talented Attorneys To Get Immediate Assistance Defending A Child Molestation Case
We are one of New Jersey’s top criminal law firms and, more importantly, we have the trial experience that is absolutely necessary to effectively defend a child sexual abuse charge. You might believe that such qualifications are commonplace, but this is definitely not the case in actuality as many attorneys portrayed in persuasive webpages have almost no sex crimes trials experience.
Attorneys on our staff are available immediately to present our credentials and discuss how we can help you. Contact us anytime 24/7 for a free consultation.