Close in Age Exemption for NJ Sex Crime Charges

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Parents often advise teenagers to wait to have sex for religious reasons, health reasons, and for many other reasons. But parents don’t often think to mention that teenage sex can be illegal and result in felony-level criminal charges. It can, especially in situations where kids in school may be having consensual sex underage. Even though teenagers are often close in age to each other, such as 17 and 15, an unfortunate situation can lead to serious trouble for the older child in the situation. Fortunately, New Jersey has a “close in age exemption” that applies in some cases. Here are the basics on New Jersey’s close in age exemption and how it may be applied to your child’s case.

If your son or daughter is facing charges for a sex crime such as criminal sexual contactsexual assault, or endangering the welfare of a child, it is imperative to speak with an attorney who can help with their specific case. Our lawyers defend all types of sexual charges against juveniles and adults in Union County and throughout NJ. Contact us today at  (908) 838-0150 for a free consultation and get the dedicated answers you need.

What is the Age of Consent in New Jersey?

To understand why even supposedly consensual teenage sex can be illegal, you need to understand New Jersey’s age of consent law. That law sets the age of consent in New Jersey at 16. Anyone under 16 cannot legally consent to have sex, even if they consent in the conventual sense of the word. Essentially, the law presumes that minors cannot give informed consent to have sex. You may have heard of the age of consent consent in the context of “statutory rape” laws. In the statutory rape context, someone who is seventeen years old or younger cannot legally consent to have sex with someone who is eighteen years old or older. In other words, a juvenile cannot legally consent to have sex with an adult. Given that New Jersey’s “age of consent” is sixteen, someone who is under sixteen cannot legally consent to engage in sexual activity absent an applicable exception to that rule, known as the close in age exemption.

What is the Close in Age Exemption in NJ?

As you can imagine, strict application of the age of consent law to two teenagers can lead to harsh results. The New Jersey legislature consequently passed a “close in age exemption” applicable to teenage sexual activity in certain situations. This close in age exemption deals with situations in which both or all participants in the otherwise prohibited activity are below the legal age of consent, and it also deals with situations where an adult offender is of a similar age to the minor involved.

Generally speaking, the close in age exemption permits individuals in New Jersey, including both adults and minors, to have consensual sex involving a minor, if and only if: the age difference involved does not exceed four years and the minor involved is not age 12 or under, for obvious reasons. Any age difference greater than four years does not fall within this exemption. In addition, any sexual conduct involving an underage minor who is not yet 16 is illegal, regardless of whether or not the minor consents. If the exemption does not apply and two people are engaging in sexual activity while one is underage, harsh penalties for a sex crime can come back into play.

Does the Close in Age Exception Apply to Your Sexual Criminal Case in NJ?

If you or your child is facing sex charges for supposed illegal activity, the consequences can be unbearable for those convicted. Some are even required to abide by mandatory sex offender registration under Megan’s Law, which can impact them for the rest of their lives. With this in mind, consult an experienced sex crimes attorney serving all of Union County and NJ, to get help constructing your best defense. Our lawyers can be reached 24/7 at (908) 838-0150 so please feel free to contact us anytime for assistance.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.