Written by attorney Jef D Henninger

Aggravated Sexual Assault in New Jersey

Aggravated Sexual Assault in New Jersey is one of the most serious offenses and is easily one of the most challenging cases a NJ sex crimes lawyer can face. In order to defend it, you first have to understand it as it is a rather broad statute.

New Jersey's Criminal Code sets forth six categories of sexual assault that are "aggravated," elevating them to crimes of the first degree:

An actor is guilty of aggravated sexual assault if he commits an act of sexual penetration with another person under any one of the following circumstances: (1) The victim is less than 13 years old; (2) The victim is at least 13 but less than 16 years old; and (a) The actor is related to the victim by blood or affinity to the third degree, or (b) The actor has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the actor's legal, professional, or occupational status, or (c) The actor is a foster parent, a guardian, or stands in loco parentis within the household; (3) The act is committed during the commission, or attempted commission, whether alone or with one or more other persons, of robbery, kidnapping, homicide, aggravated assault on another, burglary, arson or criminal escape; (4) The actor is armed with a weapon or any object fashioned in such a manner as to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a weapon and threatens by word or gesture to use the weapon or object; (5) The actor is aided or abetted by one or more other persons and either of the following circumstances exists: (a) The actor uses physical force or coercion, or (b) The victim is one whom the actor knew or should have known was physically helpless, mentally defective or mentally incapacitated; (6) The actor uses physical force or coercion and severe personal injury is sustained by the victim. [N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a.]

Each category of aggravated sexual assault focuses on an act of penetration — under six alternative sets of circumstances. Although protecting distinct interests, all six categories are elevated to crimes of the first degree because of the severity of the harm inflicted on the alleged victim. For example, the aggravating factor in 2C:14-2a(3) is that the sexual assault is committed along with another crime involving risk of serious injury. Likewise, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(4), the actor is armed with a weapon and threatens the victim, and N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(6), the actor uses severe force and the victim sustains severe injury.

Thus, all of the normal defenses to sexual assault in New Jersey apply to aggravated sexual assault. However, the additional defenses that are applicable here are those that elevate the case to a first degree crime. This will open up lesser include defenses that the jury could use to convict the defendant of a lesser offense if the case goes to trial. Before trial, an attack can be focused on a motion to dismiss the indictment for failure to prove one of these aggravated circumstances.

If convicted of aggravated sexual assault in New Jersey, you could face up to 20 years in prison in addition to Megan's Law Supervision and Parole Supervision for Life. Thus, it is very important that you obtain the best lawyer possible.

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