NJ Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer
Get Assistance From an Experienced NJ Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer at our Firm
The term “statutory rape” is not actually used in the New Jersey Criminal Code, although it is frequently spoken of as if it were an actual offense. The phrase customarily refers to the act of an adult engaging in sexual intercourse, without force, with a minor child who has yet to reach the age of consent. This conduct can result in numerous criminal charges in NJ. Possible charges are endangering the welfare of a child, criminal sexual contact and sexual assault. If you have come under investigation or have already been charged with an act of statutory rape, retaining a skilled New Jersey criminal attorney is essential to your protecting your liberty and escaping serious consequences. The experienced New Jersey sex crimes attorneys at our firm have the tools to ensure that you reach the very best outcome in your case.
What is the Age of Consent in New Jersey State?
Statutory rape classically occurs when intercourse takes place with someone below the age of consent. The thought process that defines this rule of law stems from the fact that children under a certain age lack awareness of the serious consequences that sex can have, such as unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Penetration with a child below this age triggers a criminal offense for a crime that can be characterized as statutory rape since the victim lacks the maturity to consent to sexual relations.
The age of consent in New Jersey is sixteen (16) years old. A child under this age lacks the maturity and capacity to consent to sexual conduct. Voluntary participation in sex can never be extended in this context and is considered statutory rape even when no force is involved. The second road someone can take to a statutory rape charge is by engaging in sexual conduct that debauches the morals of a minor child over whom the actor has a duty of care. The classic scenario involves a school teacher or coach.
When Can Someone Be Charged With Statutory Rape in New Jersey?
In general, there are two ways that an individual can face a criminal charge falling under the description of statutory rape. A key element in either circumstance is a lack of force, threats or other aggravating circumstance. It is sexual penetration under circumstances that might otherwise be totally legal but for the age of the victim.
The first marker of statutory rape is where someone who is at least four (4) years old engages in sexual penetration with a minor child who is at least thirteen (13) years of age but less than sixteen (16). The second way a statutory rape can be charged is by engaging in sexual conduct which debauches the morals of a child over whom the actor has a duty of care. The classic example of this type of statutory rape is a teacher or coach that enters into an otherwise consensual relationship with a student.
Can The Charge Against me Stand If The Victim Misrepresented His/Her Age?
A false belief, even a reasonable one such as where the victim misrepresents his/her age, is not a plausible defense to prosecution for statutory rape. The key detail to know is that this is a strict liability crime — if the victim is under the age of consent — a statutory rape has taken place. Application of this principle can be particularly harsh given that a developed or mature teenager can easily be mistaken to be older than their actual age.
The recent matter of State v. Saponaro, illustrates this point. The defendant in Saponaro was 24 years old. He met someone online who indicated they were eighteen. The victim appeared rather mature when they met in person and appeared to be at least eighteen. Unfortunately, the girl was thirteen years old and this resulted in a sexual assault charge after sexual penetration happened. The court rejected the defense of reasonable error, concluding that statutory rape under the N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2 is a strict liability crime. See Saponaro (“statute imposing strict liability for sexual relations both protects the public, i.e., minor children, and acts as a strong deterrent to sexual attacks on those children”).
What Penalties Will I Face If I Am Convicted of Statutory Rape?
The penalties that a person can face at sentencing for a statutory rape offense depends on the exact criminal charge and degree of the crime.
- Second Degree. A conviction for second degree sexual assault carries in 5-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Second degree endangering the welfare of a child carries the same penalties.
- Third Degree Crime. The penalties include 3-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 for third degree endangering the welfare of a child, on top of third degree aggravated criminal sexual contact.
- Fourth Degree Crime. A fourth degree offense for criminal sexual contact or even lewdness can result in up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000.
You should also be aware that Megan’s Law (mandatory sex offense registration)and Parole Supervision for Life are triggered if someone is convicted of a second degree sex crime falling in the statutory rape category.
Obtain Assistance From an Experienced NJ Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer at our Firm
Sex cases are, hands down, some of the most highly contested pedigrees of criminal offense. There numerous reasons for this fact, including the nature of charges like statutory rape, not to mention the extreme penalties that you can face upon conviction. Getting the best attorney you can find is especially important in a sex crimes matter given these stakes. The team of accomplished New Jersey sex crimes lawyers at our firm, Spodek Law Group, have the attributes required to successfully represent you in your statutory rape case. Real life trial experience handling these kinds of complex charges is exactly what is required in order to secure a dismissal. To find out how we can help you win you statutory rape offense, call 877-534-7338 for an immediate free consultation with one of our talented criminal attorneys.