Is Statutory Rape a Crime in NJ?

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Rape Defense Attorneys in New Brunswick NJ

The term “statutory rape” refers to sexual activity between two people, one of whom is under a state’s “age of consent.” Although a commonly used term, New Jersey does not have a specific criminal charge for statutory rape. With that being said, there are several criminal charges that you can face based on statutory rape allegations. In this article, we explain New Jersey’s age of consent, discuss the “close in age exemption” that is closely related to alleged rape cases, and explore the “statutory rape” related charges that prosecutors can file against you in New Jersey. If you or a loved one has been accused of sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, endangering the welfare of a child, or another sex crime in Middlesex County, NJ, contact our experienced defense attorneys to discuss your case and your options in a free consultation. You can reach us 24/7 by calling (732) 659-9600.

What is the Age of Consent in NJ?

Each state has a law setting forth the age at which an individual can legally consent to sexual contact with another person. In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16. This means that if a person is under 16, they cannot legally agree to have sex with someone else, even if they personally state that they agree. The law states that someone under 16 is just too young to validly give someone else permission to have sex with them. In other words, a minor under 16 cannot provide informed consent. That said, there are a few exceptions to this rule, most notably the close in age exemption explained below.

Statutory Rape Related Charges in New Jersey

New Jersey law does not specifically use the term “statutory rape.” Instead, violations of the age of consent law are prosecuted under New Jersey’s sexual assault statutes. One of the most commonly filed “statutory rape”-style charges in New Jersey is criminal sexual contact. The law against criminal sexual contact prohibits sexual contact—sexual touching that even includes touching over clothes if it is carried out for the purpose of sexual gratification—between a 13-15 year old minor and a person who is four years older than that minor (by application of the close in age exemption discussed above). This offense is typically charged as a fourth degree crime, and a conviction can subject you to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

You can be charged with the even more serious crime of sexual assault if you engage in sexual contact with a minor who is 12 years of age or under and if you are at least four years older than the victim. You can also be charged with this crime if you engage in sexual penetration with a minor who is 13-15 years of age and if you are at least four years older than the victim. Sexual assault is a second degree crime in New Jersey. A conviction can result in 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.

Finally, you can be charged with a first degree crime (one of the most serious in the state) called aggravated sexual assault if you engage in sexual penetration of a minor who is 12 or younger. A conviction for this crime can result in 15 years to life in prison and fines of up to $200,000.

What if We are Close in Age? Close in Age Exemption

To avoid harsh or unfair results involving two minors who engage in sexual activity with one another, New Jersey has enacted an exception to the age of consent law called the “close in age exemption.” This legal exemption provides that a minor under the age of 16 can consent to have sex if the age difference between the sexual participants is not over four years and if the minor is over 12 years old. If the age difference involved is over four years and one of the participants in the sexual activity is under 16 years of age, this exception does not apply.

Accused of Rape in Middlesex County NJ?

All sexual assault crimes in New Jersey can subject you to sex offender registration and other harsh penalties. You should consult a lawyer to learn more about the rules on statutory rape in NJ and what you can do to fight charges for a sexual offense. Our lawyers are available immediately to assist you, so please call our law office in Edison at (732) 659-9600 if you need a free consultation. You can also contact us online anytime to arrange an appointment about rape allegations arising in New Brunswick, Edison, South Brunswick, Piscataway, Woodbridge, Old Bridge, Carteret, East Brunswick. or other Middlesex County towns.

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.