There are a variety of criminal offenses that fall within the confines of sex crimes. While the vast majority of these types of offenses are prosecuted in State Court, there are several that are prosecuted in Federal Court. Each State has its own definition of what constitutes a sex crime and the names associated with them. For example, these types of crimes are often referred to as “Rape” or “Sodomy”. In New Jersey, those terms are not utilized. New Jersey identifies sex crimes as follows:
Aggravated Sexual Assault;
Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact;
Criminal Sexual Contact; and
“Aggravated Sexual Assault” is a first degree crime which has a sentencing range of 10 to 20 years. The crime involves sexual penetration of another with certain additional factors. It also is considered a violent crime requiring that 85% be served before the person is eligible for release from prison. If the offense involves sexual penetration of a child under the age of 13, the penalty is a mandatory minimum term of 25 years and a maximum of life imprisonment.
“Sexual Assault” is a second degree crime which has a sentencing range of 5 to 10 years. The crime involves any sexual contact with a child under 13 and the actor is more than 4 years older than the victim or sexual penetration of another in what the law considers less egregious circumstances. If it involves sexual contact with a child under 13 and the actor is 4 years older or it involves sexual penetration of another and physical force or coercion is used but the victim does not sustain severe personal injury, anyone convicted must serve 85% before being eligible for release from prison.
What people typically call “Statutory Rape” falls within the confines of Sexual Assault. For most purposes the age of consent in New Jersey is 16. It is a crime if the victim is between 13 and 16 years old and the actor is more than 4 years older than the victim. A reasonable belief that the victim was 16 or older is not defense. This is a strict liability crime. All the State need prove is an act of sexual penetration, the victim is between 13 and 16 and the actor is more than 4 years older than the victim. In theory, the victim could show the actor what appears to be a valid drivers license indicating that the individual is over 16 and it would not matter if the victim was actually under 16 and the actor was more than 4 years older.
“Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact” is a crime of the third degree which has a sentencing range of probation to 5 years in prison. It is not subject to the 85% sentencing provision. It involves sexual contact where the victim is between 13 and 16, the parties have some type of familial relationship or the actor has supervisory authority, a weapon is used or threatened, more than one person is involved, force or coercion is used and severe personal injury occurs or the victim is incapacitated.
“Criminal Sexual Contact” is a crime of the fourth degree which has a sentencing range of probation to 18 months in prison. It is not subject to the 85% sentencing provision. It involves sexual contact where force or coercion is used but severe personal injury does not occur or the victim is under court supervision or in a custodial setting and the actor has supervisory status or the victim is between 16 and 18 where the actor has some supervisory or parental status or the victim is between 13 and 16 and the actor is more than 4 years older.
“Lewdness” is a crime of the fourth degree if the actor exposes his intimate parts for the purposes of gratification if it is reasonable to believe someone under 13 will see it and the actor is more than 4 years older or the person seeing the act suffers from a mental disease or defect. Under all other circumstances, it is considered a disorderly persons offense.
The above is a very general and cursory review of the criminal statutes. The law is far more detailed and nuanced. If you find yourself charged with, or being investigated for, one of these offenses, it is important that you meet with an experienced criminal defense lawyer familiar with these laws.