What Is the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct?

Man's hand holding a woman hand for rape and sexual abuse.

In New Jersey, the main difference between sexual assault and sexual misconduct is one of terminology. Sexual assault has specific legal definitions and penalties, while sexual misconduct serves as a catch-all term for inappropriate sexual behaviors. Let’s take a deeper dive into the similarities and differences between these two related terms.


What Does Sexual Misconduct Mean?

“Sexual misconduct” is not a specific legal offense under New Jersey law. That means when someone talks about sexual misconduct in New Jersey, they’re not referring to a specific crime listed in the state’s legal code. Instead, many people use the term broadly to describe sexual acts or unwanted sexual behaviors that are inappropriate or unwelcome or that violate personal boundaries. Such actions can range from unsolicited comments and sexual harassment to certain physical interactions with sexual overtones.

What Does Sexual Assault Mean?

Under New Jersey law, the crime of sexual assault covers several scenarios. They include sexual contact with a child under 13 by someone at least four years older or sexual penetration under conditions where coercion is used but without severe injury to the victim. It covers cases involving individuals in positions of authority engaging in sexual contact with people under their care who are between 16 and 18 years old. It can also include cases where an authority figure engages in sexual activity with a student between 18 and 22 who is under their authority and has not yet graduated from high school.

Penalties for Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Assault in New Jersey

For crimes of the first degree, such as aggravated sexual assault, New Jersey law imposes a prison term of 25 years to life. Notably, the convicted person must serve 25 years before they are eligible for parole unless the law specifies a longer period of parole ineligibility.

For crimes of the second degree, including certain types of sexual assault not resulting in severe personal injury, the penalties are also significant. While the exact punishments can vary, second-degree crimes generally carry a potential prison term of 5 to 10 years.

These criminal charges can carry additional serious consequences beyond prison time, such as mandatory sex offender registration, which can affect convicted offenders for years after they’ve paid their debt to society.

Why You Need Our Criminal Defense Lawyers When Facing Sex Crime Charges

If you’re facing sex crime charges in New Jersey, having an experienced lawyer by your side is essential. The stakes are high, and a strong defense can make all the difference. The experienced lawyers at William Proetta Criminal Law can help you by:

  • Reviewing all the evidence against you carefully and identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s case
  • Crafting a strong defense strategy tailored to your specific situation
  • Filing motions to suppress evidence that was illegally obtained
  • Negotiating with prosecutors to reduce charges
  • Representing you at all court appearances and hearings
  • Protecting you from making self-incriminating statements
  • Challenging the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses
  • Presenting evidence that supports your version of events
  • Preparing you to testify, if it’s in your best interest
  • Filing appeals against any wrongful convictions or sentences

If you are facing charges related to sex crimes in New Jersey, don’t leave the future to chance. The attorneys with William Proetta Criminal Law are ready to guide you through your case with understanding and dedication. Contact us anytime, 24/7, to get started with a free legal consultation. The case review is completely confidential.

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.