Understanding the Consequences for a Sex Crime Conviction
With over 165,000 people imprisoned for rape or other forms of sexual assault, sex crimes are one of the most common reasons for imprisonment. There are usually mandatory minimum sentences imposed on people who commit sex crimes, and you might encounter other consequences as well. Here are the sorts of punishments you can expect to face for sex crimes in New Jersey.
Depending on the type of crime, a person may face anywhere from six months of jail time to life imprisonment. There are several factors that go into jail time. First of all, the court will take a look at the type of sex crime you are charged with. The most severe crime is sexual assault which is the legal term for rape. It involves sexual penetration where the victim was unwilling or unable to consent. There is also a type of crime, called sexual contact, which refers to things like touching or molesting without penetration. Finally, there is lewdness, a type of crime that involves unwanted or inappropriate sexual behavior without actually touching the victim.
Next, the court will consider whether the New Jersey sexual offense is “aggravated.” Aggravated crimes involve factors that make the punishment more severe. Sexual assault or sexual contact is upgraded to an aggravated sexual offense in cases where the victim is underaged or related to the perpetrator. It can also be an aggravated offense if the perpetrator severely injured the victim, used a weapon to commit the crime, or committed another crime alongside the sex crime. If the offender was a teacher, police officer, or other authority figure who used their position to sexually harm someone, their crime might count as an aggravated crime.
Keep in mind that New Jersey does have mandatory minimums for most sex crimes, but the court can choose to increase the prison sentence if circumstances warrant more jail time for sex crimes. Here are some of the common prison sentences associated with types of sex crimes:
- Aggravated sexual assault in the first degree: 10 years to life
- Sexual assault in the second degree: Five to 10 years
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact in the third degree: Three to five years
- Criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree: 18 months to two years
- Lewdness in the fourth degree: Six months
Prison sentences are the only one of the sex crime penalties that are legally required after a conviction. However, the court does have the option of adding fines on to their sentence. These fines are meant to both punish the perpetrator and compensate the victim. The exact amount varies quite a bit depending on your circumstances and the type of deal negotiated by your Morristown criminal defense lawyer.
For a fourth-degree sex crime, the court can charge you a fine of up to $10,000. If the crime is a third-degree crime, you can get a fine of up to $15,000. When charged with a second-degree crime, the penalty can be up to $150,000, and first-degree crimes can come with a fine of up to $200,000.
These fines go directly to the government. In addition to these fines, you might also have to pay a fine to the victim. To calculate this amount, the court first looks at the financial value of the victim’s injury. They may take into account both physical and mental harm and consider things like payment for medical bills or lost wages due to the injury. Then the court can assign a fine of up to double this amount.
Megan’s Law Registry
If you are convicted of a qualifying sex offense in New Jersey, Megan’s Law also requires you to register as a sex offender. You will have to fill out a form and submit it to your local police department. Then the Division of State Police will post information about you on a publicly searchable website. You will have a duty to notify the registry if your location changes, and failing to do so can result in more criminal charges. Failing to register can lead to more fines and more time spent in prison.
Registration is not technically meant to be a punishment for sex offenders. It is simply meant to help keep the community safe. However, it does end up meaning that sex offenders lose a lot of their right to privacy. Unlike other crimes, your current address, vehicle type, age, description, and type of offense will all be public knowledge. This can make it harder to get jobs, gain approval for apartment applications, and otherwise reintegrate into society.
Restrictions on Certain Behaviors
The majority of sex crimes just result in basic jail time, fines, and being on the sex offender registry. However, the court has a lot of freedom in assigning punishments, as long as they are not cruel and unusual. Due to the nature of certain sex crimes, the court might place additional restrictions on a person’s behavior. This can include things like bans from participating in events or using certain services that would provide access to potential victims.
Even if restrictions are not placed on you by the court, you can still run into them. Those who are convicted of sex crimes are often ineligible for things like teaching at a school or signing up for certain social media sites. New Jersey does not have state-wide restrictions on where sex offenders can live, but some counties and towns may have their own rules in place. This can prevent you from living near schools, parks, or other similar areas. Many social media companies, including Facebook, also ban sex offenders from using their sites.
Civil lawsuits are not an official punishment for sex crime convictions, but it’s still worth being aware of this possibility. Any time a person believes they were harmed by your negligent or unethical behavior, they can sue you. Sexual assault victims can potentially ask for compensation to help with things like therapy and medical bills. They can also sue the perpetrator for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, and loss of ability to be intimate with their partners.
Most civil sexual assault lawsuits end up being “he said/she said”-type situations that are hard to prove. However, if you’ve been convicted of a crime, the other party’s case gets a lot easier. Since a conviction involves proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it makes it much simpler for someone to sue you. They can point to the criminal case against you as proof of their claims. If you lose a lawsuit, you can then end up having to pay even more money to the victim.
As you can see, there are all sorts of official and unofficial consequences associated with sex crime convictions. If you are facing charges, it is important to speak to a Morristown criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. They can assist you with things like proving innocence or negotiating lighter charges. As one of the leading criminal defense attorneys in the Morris County area, Gregg Wisotsky is here to help. Schedule a free consultation by calling 973-898-0161 or filling out our online contact form.