New Jersey Juvenile Sex Crimes & Penalties
Juvenile Sex Offense Lawyers Defending Minors in NJ
Whether a youth is experimenting with sex or has mental, emotional, or physical challenges, allegations and charges of juvenile delinquency for sex crimes can have lasting effects. Like adults, juveniles may commit sex crimes. However, they may also be falsely accused of committing sexual offenses just like adults as well. The specific offense and associated charges may vary in seriousness depending on the minor’s age and the alleged victim. Regardless of age, New Jersey criminalizes unwanted or coercive sexual touching or exposure to sex acts, and the punishments in these cases can be among the most severe available in the juvenile system. In some scenarios, the juvenile faces even harsher prospects when sex offense accusations lead to them being charged as an attorney.
For juvenile sex crimes, the implications of being adjudicated delinquent can haunt a young person for the rest of their life. At The Tormey Law Firm, our lawyers bring over 70 years of combined experience as criminal defense lawyers, former prosecutors, and public defenders together to formulate and execute the most effective defenses on behalf of clients young and old across the state of New Jersey. For example, one attorney on our team previously worked on special interest criminal cases in the Bergen County Juvenile Section. Another one of our lawyers was victorious when appealing a sexual assault conviction involving Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome. Our firm’s founder, Travis Tormey, has also served as a legal resource on Megan’s Law in a prominent New Jersey publication. Ultimately, we bring together all of our resources and understanding of juvenile sex offense cases and other juvenile crimes to zealously confront the state’s case against our underage clients in Bergen County, Passaic County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and throughout New Jersey. Contact our NJ juvenile sex crime defense attorneys for assist with your child’s protection in the juvenile system. You can reach us online or call (201)-556-1570 anytime, day or night, for a free consultation.
Who Cannot Consent to Engage in Sex Acts in New Jersey
While it’s inevitable that youths are curious and engage in risky behavior willingly, the law does not recognize consensual sexual acts for minors under 13. Even older minors, like those between 13 and 16, who may seem capable of consenting, cannot consent to sexual relations with someone four or more years older. Additionally, teenagers 16 to 17 may not consent to sexual contact with blood relatives or family members related by marriage or adoption. Neither can they consent to sexual relations with one in an unequal power relation based on supervisory or disciplinary roles, such as a teacher, guardian, or coach. And, of course, one who is mentally incapable of consenting to sexual contact because of diminished mental capacity, drunkenness, drugs, or unconsciousness cannot consent.
Different Types of Sex Crimes Committed by Juveniles
Sexual assault occurs when any of these acts produce victims of sexual penetration, and aggravated sexual assault involves sexual penetration by the threat of a weapon, serious physical harm, or multiple parties. Other juvenile sexual crimes include indecent exposure, lewdness, nonconsensual sharing of sexually compromising images, luring, enticing, solicitation, prostitution, child pornography, failure to register as a sex offender, promoting prostitution, and criminal sexual contact. Criminal sexual contact occurs when the perpetrator uses another’s intimate body parts for the sexual pleasure of the perpetrator or victim or to degrade the victim. Intentional sexual contact may involve touching another’s private parts directly or through clothing. It can also include self-touching in front of a victim the perpetrator knows to be present or touching the victim.
Contributing Factors to Juvenile Sex Offenses
The type of crime often correlates to each juvenile, their background, and the type of offender. Each has their triggers, relationships, and personalities. For example, youth offenders who are sexual abuse victims as children may grow up with personality disorders and a higher propensity to become sexual abusers. Also, they tend to abuse the same way they experienced abuse. So, those who experienced physical abuse, neglect, and family violence are more likely to commit sexual abuse, including rape and child molestation, than those who did not suffer maltreatment as children. Moreover, unstable and violent families fail to foster children with healthy relationship attachments, contributing to antisocial and criminal juveniles.
Aside from background, genetics and brain chemistry may cause youths to grow up with sexually deviant arousals that turn into sexually aggressive behavior. Additionally, studies correlate childhood abuse, neglect, genetics, and poor academic performance due to juvenile sex crimes. Poor academic performance typically derives from cognitive deficiencies, learning disabilities, attention deficits, and school absences. Additionally, psychological problems may arise from abuse and biology, but sexual impulsivity and aggression link to mental health challenges. Thus, youth motivated by curiosity, experimentation, poor social skills, aggressivity, compulsiveness, peer influence, and poor socialization may become juvenile sexual abusers.
You may be surprised as a parent to learn that your underage child has been accused of a sex crime because they do not meet any of the criteria or have any of the risk factors for sexual behavior against others. However, juveniles often find themselves facing charges for sexual offenses due to other reasons, like a child who is embarrassed when their parents find out about their actions. In their fear of discipline and embarrassment, they may blame your son or daughter, despite the fact that both young people willingly participated in sexual activity. This is why having an experienced juvenile sex crimes defense lawyer is so critical. If not handled properly, your minor could be forced to carry the burden of a sex crime conviction and Megan’s Law registration for years to come.
Penalties for Juvenile Sex Offenses in NJ
Minors charged with juvenile sex offenses are deemed delinquent by a Family Judge in the juvenile justice system. Since the juvenile system aims to rehabilitate, not incarcerate juvenile offenders, the sentences for sex crimes may not be as harsh as for adults. However, sentencing depends on the severity and circumstances of the crime, as well as the juvenile’s age and history. So, a younger, first-time offender’s sentence may include counseling services and other resources to help the minor rehabilitate. In some cases, a deferred disposition is allowed, after which a judge may dismiss the charges.
Sentences may include fines, community service, probation, release to a parent, counseling, mental health treatment, substance abuse rehabilitation services, placement alternatives to the home, work or vocational programs, driver’s license suspension, and incarceration in a juvenile detention center. Typically, juvenile detention terms are shorter than adult incarceration sentences, but it depends on the nature of the crime. If a juvenile commits a violent sexual act on an adult or a particularly vulnerable victim, they potentially face sex crime charges in adult court.
How Sex Offender Registration is Handled for Juveniles in New Jersey
If adjudicated guilty of certain sex crimes, a juvenile must register with the local police as a sex offender on the state’s Sex Offender Registry under Megan’s Law. Crimes such as sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, luring, false imprisonment, enticing, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal restraint related to a sexual offense, kidnapping, and criminal sexual contact require registration. Failure to register is a fourth degree crime. However, juveniles under 14 may petition to have their name removed from the sex offender registry at 18. Otherwise, it takes 15 crime-free years to be removed from the Megan’s Law registry.
Juvenile Megan’s Law Evaluations and Tier Classification in NJ
Before registration, the state evaluates juveniles under the Juvenile Risk Assessment Scale (JRAS) as low, moderate, or high risk based on the likelihood to re-offend. Factors that determine recidivism are the juvenile’s sex offense history, antisocial behavior, and environment. So, the court considers factors like prior sex crimes, violence in perpetrating sex crimes, family environment, low self-image, negative familial relationships, aggression, the circumstances of the crime, victim’s age, response to previous treatment, length of time between offenses, and living and working stability.
The tier system rates juveniles as Tier 1, 2, or 3, with 3 being the highest risk. The Tier level determines the juvenile’s public exposure. So, a Tier 1 juvenile’s sex offender status is published to law enforcement, Tier 2 to law enforcement, schools, daycare, and summer camps, and Tier 3 to the public in addition to law enforcement, schools, daycare, and summer camps. The Tier level is set at a hearing where the prosecutor offers their Tier level recommendation, and a juvenile defense lawyer may argue against that recommendation.
We can Protect Your Minor’s Interests in Every Stage of a NJ Juvenile Sex Crime Case
A juvenile moving through the juvenile justice system needs a seasoned attorney for each phase, particularly when sex offenses have been alleged. At The Tormey Law Firm, we use decades of combined experience to aggressively confront allegations against our minor clients at the earliest possible moment in the case. In fact, our attorneys may intervene early before charges are filed and the police detain the minor. In some cases, we may get the youth released to their parents. We also help juveniles charged with sex crimes in the initial hearing when a judge determines whether to detain or release them pending a juvenile delinquency determination and further proceedings. Our lawyers can argue for releasing our client to their parents or other caretakers to assure public safety and the juvenile’s return to court. We assemble all of the evidence to support these arguments and challenge any supposed danger that our young clients allegedly pose to the community.
If the case does not resolve by the juvenile conference committee or intake services conference, which are informal meetings with the juvenile, their parents, and the one who filed the juvenile complaint to determine what punishment is appropriate, or by a juvenile referee’s recommendations to the judge, a hearing will take place. An attorney is not necessary if the hearing is informal, but an attorney is required if it is a formal hearing. There, counsel can argue for a sentence that helps the juvenile reform rather than a prosecutor’s aim to punish and protect the community by detaining a juvenile. For example, our dedicated defense lawyers can often persuade a judge to order probation rather than incarceration and we investigate every detail of the victim’s statements and other evidence to pinpoint vulnerabilities.
Attorneys with our depth of background in juvenile sexual criminal cases can also be crucial at the Tier evaluation hearing for sex offender registration and for helping with a juvenile sex offender’s removal from the registry. We understand the important elements required to support these cases and how to supply evidence of a juvenile’s prospects of rehabilitation. Should a juvenile violate the registrant laws by moving out of state to college or otherwise leaving the state, our legal team is ready to represent them in court. Finally, if a juvenile has fulfilled their sentence, our law firm can help them get their sex crime records sealed, which means the documents are treated as if they never existed.
Speak with a NJ Juvenile Sex Crime Defense Attorney about Your Child’s Case
If your underage child has been charged with a sexual offense in New Jersey, the time is now to get a lawyer involved. The outcomes of these cases often hinge on the immediacy of the response and the quality of the defense against juvenile sex crime charges or the opening of an investigation. We can assist with fighting the case and defending your minor’s rights from day one. Contact (201)-556-1570 to talk to a lawyer now. Consultations are provided 24/7 free of charge.