Of all crimes, sex offenses are the most challenging for a criminal lawyer, whose mission is to vigorously defend his client. Sex offenses range from lewdness to aggravated sexual assault. The range of penalties runs the gamut from a maximum of six months in a county jail for lewdness to twenty years in prison for aggravated sexual assault in the first degree.
Essentially, sex offenses involve a focus on genital areas of males and females, or other private zones, including a woman’s breasts, the buttocks, and the areas in the immediate proximity. Secondly, exposure or contact with sexual parts must be for sexual gratification of the offender or humiliation of the victim. Accidental contact is not criminal.
The extent of the contact and the criminal intent of the person charged determine the punishment if the actor is convicted. The lowest level of criminal responsibility is reserved for lewdness, exposure of sexual zones to others in public or to members of the public. Next are crimes involving touching of the intimate parts of the victim either for the purpose of sexual gratification or humiliation of the victim. The most serious sex crimes involve penetration, force, and a great age disparity between the victim and the accused.
Penalties for fourth degree crimes can be as high as eighteen months in jail. A third degree crime, such as aggravated criminal sexual contact, can lead to five years in prison. Second and first degree crimes call for prison terms up to twenty years.
In most sexual offenses, the provisions of ‘Megan’s Law’ require a convicted person to register as a sex offender. For certain offenders, schools are notified. In cases involving sexual offenders, who are likely to reoffend, or whose character is marked by repetitive behavior, a court can impose treatment at the New Jersey sex offenders facility in Avenel, New Jersey.
Careful defense of persons accused of committing sex crimes often requires an attorney to engage experts in the mental health fields, especially psychology or psychiatry. The goal is to demonstrate that the client is not guilty, or to minimize the consequences to a client who pleads guilty.
Careful and thorough preparation and the involvement of forensic experts are the key components of a successful defense.