NJ Statutory Rape Attorney

The term “statutory rape” is not found in the New Jersey Criminal Code although it is frequently used as if it were an actual offense. The phrase generally refers to the act of an adult engaging in sexual intercourse, without force, with a minor who has yet to reach the age of consent. This conduct can result in a number of criminal charges in NJ, including endangering the welfare of a child, criminal sexual contact and even sexual assault. If you are under investigation or have already been charged with an act of statutory rape, hiring a skilled New Jersey criminal attorney is essential to your preserving your liberty and escaping serious consequences. The experienced New Jersey sex crimes lawyers at our firm have the tools to ensure that you reach the very best result in your case.

We are the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, one of the largest and most accomplished criminal firms in the state. Our credentials include:

  • Over 200 years of combined experience representing clients charged with statutory rape
  • 12 lawyers who specialize exclusively in criminal defense
  • Former county prosecutors that have served in Sex Crimes, Major Crimes, Juvenile Unit, Gangs Task Force and even as Director of an entire Trial Division
  • Certified criminal trial attorneys
  • Countless trials to verdict in sex crimes cases

You might be taken by some of the puffery contained on the internet but we can tell you that credentials like these are extremely rare in New Jersey. Success in defending a statutory rape charge comes down to not only the facts of a case but also the experience of the attorney defending you. Scrutinize what you read and we are certain that our team will be of paramount interest to you. Call us at 877-450-8301 for a free initial consultation.

 

What is the Age of Consent in New Jersey?

Statutory rape classically arises when intercourse occurs with someone below the age of consent. The thought process behind this rule of law stems from the fact that children below a certain age lack awareness of the serious consequences that sex can have, for example, pregnancy or disease. Penetration with someone below this age triggers a criminal offense for statutory rape since the victim lacks the maturity to consent to sexual relations.

In New Jersey, the age of consent is sixteen (16) years old. A child below this age lacks the maturity and capacity to consent to sexual relations. Voluntary participation to sex can never be extended in this context and is considered statutory rape even though no force is involved. The second way someone can be charged with statutory rape is by engaging in sexual conduct that debauches the morals of a child over whom the actor has a duty of care. The classic example of someone falling within this variety of statutory rape is a school teacher or coach.

When Can Someone Be Charged With Statutory Rape in New Jersey?

There are basically two ways that an individual can face a criminal charge falling within the description of statutory rape. A key element in either instance is a lack of force, threats or other aggravating circumstance. It is sexual penetration under circumstances that would otherwise be totally legal but for the age of the victim.

The first pedigree of statutory rape arises where someone who is at least four (4) years old engages in sexual penetration with a child who is at least thirteen (13) years old but less than sixteen (16). The second way a statutory rape charged is triggered is by engaging in sexual conduct that 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 teach or coach whom enters into an otherwise consensual relationship with a student.

Can I Be Charged If The Victim Misrepresented His/Her Age?

A mistaken belief, even a reasonable one such as where the victim misrepresents his/her age, is not a defense to prosecution for statutory rape. The key point to know is that this is a strict liability crime — if the victim is under the age of consent — a statutory rape has occurred. Application of this principle can have particularly harsh given that a developed teenager can easily be mistaken to be sixteen (16) years or older.

The recent case of State v. Saponaro, illustrates this point. The defendant in Saponaro was 24 years old and met someone online who indicated they were eighteen. The victim was very mature when met in person and appeared to be at least eighteen. Unfortunately, the girl was only thirteen and this resulted in a sexual assault charge after sexual penetration occurred. The court rejected the defense of reasonable mistake, 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 Are The Penalties If I Am Convicted of Statutory Rape?

The penalties that someone faces at sentencing for statutory rape depends on the exact criminal charge and degree of crime involved.

  • Second Degree Crime. A conviction for second degree sexual assault results in 5-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The same penalties apply for second degree endangering the welfare of a child.
  • Third Degree Crime. The penalties are 3-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 for third degree endangering the welfare of a child, as well as third degree aggravated criminal sexual contact.
  • Fourth Degree Crime. A fourth degree crime for criminal sexual contact or even lewdness carries up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000.

You should also know that Megan’s Law and Parole Supervision for Life are triggered if someone is convicted of a second degree sex crime falling under the heading of statutory rape.

 

Obtain Assistance From an Experienced NJ Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer at our Firm

Sex cases are definitely some of the most highly contested pedigrees of criminal offense. There many reasons for this fact including the nature of charges like statutory rape, not to mention the extreme penalties that are triggered upon conviction. Hiring the best attorney you can find is especially important in a sex crimes given these stakes. The team of accomplished New Jersey sex crimes lawyers at our our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, have the attributes needed to successfully represent you in your statutory rape case. Real life trial experience handling these types of complex charges is exactly what is required in order to secure a dismissal. To learn how we can help you win you statutory rape offense, call 877-450-8301 for an immediate free consultation with one of our talented criminal attorneys.