All forms of rape count as sexual assault, but not all sexual assault crimes count as rape. Even though state laws vary, all states view sexual assault crimes as crimes that involve sexual activity with no clear consent. The legal defense used in a sexual assault case may revolve around the issue of consent. However, other defenses have been used successfully as well.
How Does New Jersey Define Sexual Assault?
If there is any form of sexual contact or coercion where the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated, it is sexual assault. Lack of consent can be established in several ways:
- Use of physical force.
- Coercion, such as when the actor threatens the victim or otherwise makes them too afraid to resist.
- Incapacity, which may include being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Some categories of victims are totally unable to consent in the eyes of the law. A victim who is unable to consent is someone who is:
- under the age of 13 years old.
- at least 13 years old, but less than 16 years old, and the actor is at least four years older than the victim.
- at least 16 years old, but less than 18 years old.
Additionally, it may be seen that the victim is unable to give consent in the following situations:
- The actor is related to the victim by blood or affinity to the third degree.
- The actor has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim.
- The actor is a resource, family parent, a guardian, or stands in loco parentis.
- The victim has diminished mental capacity, including being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated, such as having a disability or being impaired.
If convicted of the crime of sexual assault, the actor may be sentenced to jail time as well as getting listed in a registry of sexual offenders. Other penalties include losing parental rights, such as visitation and custody.
How Can a Lawyer Defend a Sexual Assault Charge?
The best course of defense against charges of sexual assault will hinge on the specific circumstances of the case. Some of the more common legal strategies center around innocence, consent, and insanity or mental incapacity:
Establishing innocence: In the U.S., defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Innocence may be established by providing evidence that the defendant could not have been at the location where the sexual assault allegedly took place. Text messages, phone call records, Facebook check-ins, credit card receipts, and any other time-stamped data may be used to offer an alibi that establishes innocence. DNA, hair, fingerprints, or other crime scene evidence may indicate that the victim misidentified the actor. If the defendant’s attorney can prove there is reasonable doubt in an alibi or crime scene evidence, a jury may acquit the defendant.
Proving consent: Proving consent is exceedingly difficult if the sexual act happened in private and there are no video or audio recordings of the alleged crime. Establishing that there were prior consensual acts between the defendant and the victim may not be enough to prove that this particular act was also consensual. Using the defense of consent is useless if the victim falls into any of the categories listed in the law as being unable to provide consent.
Claiming insanity or mental incapacity: It may be possible to provide that the defendant suffers from a condition that prevents them from understanding the criminal nature of their actions.
Finally, a skilled attorney may be able to establish a legal argument for suppressing evidence that would incriminate the defendant. If sex crime charges are brought against you, it is advisable to speak to a criminal law attorney immediately.
South Jersey Sex Crimes Lawyers at the Law Offices of Agre & St. John Advocate for Clients Charged with Sexual Assault
If you have been charged with the crime of sexual assault, your future is in serious jeopardy. Choosing the right attorney can mean the difference between freedom and jail. Our South Jersey sex crimes lawyers at the Law Offices of Agre & St. John are ready to fight for your rights. For an initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 856-428-7797. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.