In order to help curb sex crimes in New Jersey and offer protection from sexual abuse, misconduct, or harassment, the state allows victims to file for restraining orders. A restraining order can force an assailant to stay away from an alleged victim and lead to an arrest if they don't. When it comes to sex crimes and restraining orders in New Jersey, it's important to know what happens if you file for a restraining order, if you get charged with a sex crime, or whether you should press criminal charges versus filing a restraining order. This guide can help both victims of sexual crimes and those accused of sex crimes better understand the process.
Sex Crimes in New Jersey
New Jersey classifies any criminal charge that involves sexual activity as a “sex crime.” Some examples would be rape, child sexual abuse, indecent exposure, or aggravated sexual assault. Sex crimes in New Jersey range in severity. Some may lead to many years in jail, while others are misdemeanors that rarely result in jail time. No matter the severity, however, a sex crime conviction can have long-term consequences for any defendant.
Some of the more common sex crimes in New Jersey are:
- Rape: Rape is considered sexual assault in the second degree, which carries between five and ten years in jail and a fine of up to $150,000.
- Aggravated sexual assault: Aggravated sexual assault is the most severe type of sex crime in the state of New Jersey. It's a first-degree crime that carries a life sentence and a fine of up to $200,000.
- Criminal sexual conduct: Criminal sexual conduct is a fourth-degree offense that can lead to 18 months in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Indecent exposure: Indecent exposure is also a fourth-degree crime, with an 18-month jail sentence and a $10,000 fine.
Registering as a Sex Offender
Jail time and fines are not the only penalties for those convicted of sex crimes in New Jersey. They must also register as a sex offender for the remainder of their lives. This penalty only applies to certain sex crimes, however, not all of them. Sex offenders in New Jersey are also grouped into three tiers based on perceived risk of re-offense, with first-tier offenders being considered at the lowest risk and third-tier offenders at the highest risk. Each tier designates how much information about a previous offender's sex crime must be made public.
Although the first tier of the sex offender registry may be considered “less severe,” placement on this list can still have far-reaching consequences. Even first-tier sex offenders must notify law enforcement agencies in their area about their presence.
Restraining Orders in New Jersey
In New Jersey, victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking can qualify for a restraining order. They're most often used in domestic violence situations where there is an imminent threat of harm between parties, and they are in a family relationship. Restraining orders force the alleged perpetrator to stay away from the victim, prohibiting them from contacting them or being in the same proximity to them. If the two parties live together, the defendant will be required to move.
Sexual Assault Restraining Order
New Jersey also allows restraining orders on the basis of sexual assault allegations. Victims can seek this type of order even if they are not in a family relationship with their suspected perpetrator. A sexual assault restraining order does not charge the defendant with a crime, and no police report is required to get one. It puts a no-contact order in place and offers legal protection to the plaintiff who filed for the restraining order. If the defendant violates the order, however, they could be arrested and face criminal prosecution.
Sexual Assault Restraining Order vs. Criminal Charges
If a sexual assault restraining order doesn't charge the defendant with a crime, what's the point of getting one? Sexual assault and sex crimes are serious offenses, and when someone reports them to the police, the investigation can be invasive and may take months or even years to complete. For those who want more immediate protection and simply to have an alleged perpetrator stay away from them, a restraining order might make more sense.
The burden of proof for getting a restraining order is lower than for criminal charges, and they're heard only by judges, not juries, so getting a sexual assault restraining order might be easier for the plaintiff to accomplish. Also, restraining orders usually go into effect the same day they're filed, with a final hearing taking place ten days later. Processing a criminal charge could take months or longer.
What Can a Family Law Attorney Do for You?
Dealing with a sex crime and potential restraining order is a delicate issue. If you are a victim of a sex crime, you should understand what your rights are and what options for legal protection you have. For defendants who are accused of a sex crime or receive a restraining order, it's imperative to know how the process works so you can adequately defend yourself. For both plaintiffs and defendants, having an attorney by your side can make the process go more smoothly and ensure that you have the protection or the defense you need.
If you have questions about sex crimes, domestic violence, and the different types of restraining orders in New Jersey, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney. A restraining order can be a useful tool for victims of abuse, but it can also be based on false accusations. At the Lento Law Firm, our attorneys have the knowledge and expertise to help you with your restraining order. Joseph D. Lento has assisted many families throughout New Jersey with difficult issues like sex crimes and sexual assault and can offer the empathy and guidance you need. Contact the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686.