It is against the law for an adult to have sex with a minor. This law still applies when the sex is consensual between both parties. It is assumed that minors are not capable of providing informed consent for sexual activities. The age of consent varies from state to state and can range from 14 years old to 18 years old.
What is the Law in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, it is illegal for adults over 18 years old to have sex with minors under 16 years old, even when the sex is consensual. Those who break this law have committed statutory rape.
Sexual assault in New Jersey involves sexual penetration with a victim who is between 13 years old and 16 years old, and when the perpetrator is four or more years older. This charge can lead to five to 10 years in prison. One of the most serious charges, aggravated sexual assault, is when there is sexual penetration to a victim who is under 13 years old. This sex crime can result in a fine up to $200,000, and 15-year sentence up to life in prison.
In statutory rape cases, prosecutors do not have to prove that there was an assault, but if there is force or assault involved, it could be prosecuted as a forcible rape. Sexual assaults can also be charged under New Jersey’s child enticement and assault and battery laws.
What are Common Defenses in Statutory Rape Cases?
Not all statutory rape cases are clear-cut, in some situations, there are legitimate defenses. It may be possible to apply these laws to reduce the level of the offense, possibly from a felony to a misdemeanor. Some states have Romeo and Juliet laws, which provide sex crime defenses and exceptions to statutory rape charges. These might apply when both participants are teenagers and close in age. Another defense is if the couple is married, even though they are young, or if one is young and there is an age gap.
Some states also permit defendants to show proof that he or she reasonably believed that the victim was over the age of consent. One example could be a minor having a fake ID; however, this defense is not always successful because it is often considered to be irrelevant, even when victims have purposely been dishonest about their ages. Claiming that the victim gave consent is not viable since minors are considered to be legally incapable of doing so. Defendants may also claim that the event did not occur or that another person actually committed the crime.
What are the Penalties for Statutory Rape?
The penalties for statutory rape depend on the state and whether it is determined to be a misdemeanor or felony. Other influencing factors include the ages of the victim and offender, and if it is classified as a felony. Misdemeanors generally lead to shorter jail sentences and smaller fines, while felons can spend many years in prison and can face hefty fines.
In some states, such as New Jersey, people convicted of statutory rape must also register as sex offenders. Doing so mandates them to check in periodically with authorities. It also limits where they can live, go to school, and work. Their names are entered into a national database that is accessible to the public.
If someone is accused of statutory rape, the accused should seek immediate legal representation. A lawyer will review the facts of the case and construct a viable defense.
South Jersey Sex Crimes Lawyers at Agre & St. John Provide Legal Counsel to Those Accused of Statutory Rape
Anyone who is faced with a statutory rape charge should speak to one of our South Jersey sex crimes lawyers at Agre & St. John. We understand how a serious criminal charge can affect someone’s life. Call us at 856-428-7797 or complete our online form for an initial consultation. Located in Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Salem County.