Statutory Rape - The Basics

New Jersey statutory rape law prohibits sexual activity between an adult a minor. Even if the minor consents (agrees to the sex) it is illegal. It does not matter if the minor was a willing participant.
New Jersey statutory rape laws are absolute. 

Statutory Rape - Defined

Rape is sexual assault without the consent of the victim. 

NJ statutory rape does not require the prosecutor to prove a lack of consent. The issue of “consent” does not come into play. It is an “age-driven” analysis.
By law, a minor cannot give consent. The law deems minors incapable to making an informed decision to engage in sex. 

This means that if you are an adult and you have sex with a minor, the prosecutor does not have to prove that you used any force.

The act itself is illegal, regardless of the victim’s consent.

Statutory Rape & Strict Liability

They charge you with statutory rape. You explain your side. The facts are all true but they don’t enter into the conversation.

Example 1:

  • The minor provided you with a fake driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate showing that the minor was 21 but in reality, the minor was 15. You had no clue that any of these credentials were fake. In fact, any reasonable person inspecting these credentials would not question their authenticity.
  • Result: It doesn’t matter.

Example 2:

  • The minor started the relationship & told you countless times that the love between you was pure. The minor consented to everything you did (sexually) together. You have tons of emails & texts to prove it. You were the shy one in the relationship & the minor was outgoing.
  • Result: It doesn’t matter.

Strict liability means that your “Bona fide” belief does not matter.

Wharton, Criminal Law (1957), s 321, it is stated:
‘It is no defense that the defendant did not know that the female was under the statutory age of consent. It is immaterial that the defendant in good faith believed that the female was above the prohibited age, that he had exercised reasonable care, to ascertain her age; that his belief, though erroneous, was reasonable; or that the defendant had been mislead by the appearance or statements of the female.
The defendant acts at his peril that the female may in fact be under the age of consent. The fact that the defendant cannot assert as a defense his Bona fide belief in the victim’s age does not make unconstitutional the statutes under consideration.’

Statutory Rape - Penalties

Statutory rape is a sexual assault crime. When committed under certain circumstances, it is treated as aggravated sexual assault.

Statutory rape can be broken down into 3 categories:

  1. Criminal Sexual Contact
  2. Sexual Assault
  3. Aggravated Sexual Assault

To best help you, we broke down each crime with a simple chart outlining your age, the victim’s age, felony degree, and fines & incarceration terms you face.

Important:
The actor’s age is at least four years older than the victim.
For example, if you are 18 years & 6 months old & the victim is 14 years & 6 months old, the age difference is exactly four years.

Aggravated Sexual Assault

Under (NJSA 2C:14-2a. ) – An actor is guilty of aggravated sexual assault if the actor 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 resource family parent, a guardian, or stands in loco parentis within the household;

Sexual penetration means vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse between persons or insertion of the hand, finger or object into the anus or vagina either by the actor or upon the actor’s instruction. The depth of insertion shall not be relevant as to the question of commission of the crime

Sexual Assault

Under (NJSA 2C:14-2b.)  – An actor is guilty of sexual assault if the actor commits an act of sexual contact with a victim who is less than 13 years old and the actor is at least four years older than the victim

Under (NJSA 2C:14-2c.). An actor is guilty of sexual assault if the actor commits an act of sexual penetration with another person under any one of the following circumstances:

(3) The victim is at least 16 but less than 18 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 of any nature or in any capacity over the victim; or
(c) The actor is a resource family parent, a guardian, or stands in loco parentis within the household;

(4) The victim is at least 13 but less than 16 years old and the actor is at least four years older than the victim;

Sexual penetration means vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse between persons or insertion of the hand, finger or object into the anus or vagina either by the actor or upon the actor’s instruction. The depth of insertion shall not be relevant as to the question of commission of the crime

Criminal Sexual Contact

Under (NJSA 2C:14-3)  – Sexual contact means an intentional touching by the victim or defendant, either directly or through clothing, of the victim’s or defendant’s intimate parts for the purpose of degrading or humiliating the victim or sexually arousing or sexually gratifying the defendant.

Intimate parts mean the following body parts: sexual organs, genital area, anal area, inner thigh, groin, buttock, or breast of a person.

Statutory Rape - The Romeo & Juliet Defense

The Romeo & Juliet defense applies to adult teenagers. If you are 18 years old (adult) & you engage in consensual sexual relations with a minor in New Jersey, you may be protected from prosecution. These cases involve situations where the minor is at least 13 and a defendant who is fewer than four years older. 

Final Thoughts

New Jersey statutory rape laws are complex and difficult to understand. If you find yourself in this situation, please know that the police will use your statement against you.

When you explain your story & admit that you engaged in consensual sexual relations with a minor, this statement is an admission that will seal your fate. Unless the police get your statement illegally, you cannot take back what you say.

Your explanation & story is immaterial. Consent is not the issue in statutory rape cases. These cases focus solely on age.
Your best option is to meet with us & let us help you.

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You or a loved one have been arrested. Understandably, you are terrified & have a lot of questions. You’ve heard about plea bargains & probation, but the process is overwhelming. You want a local attorney near you to represent you.

Mr. Peyrouton is from Ridgewood & handles all types of criminal matters in New Jersey The New Jersey Law Journal recently published one of his articles on the subject of criminal law.

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