Defending Against Sexual Assault
In New Jersey, we refer to Rape as Sexual assault under N.J. Stat. § 2C:14-2. There are so many variations of sexual assault, and it is complicated to understand the differences. For purposes of this article, I briefly look into sexual assault at a high level, giving an overview of commonly charged variations to help lead you to understanding how to approach your legal defense.
The magnitude of sexual assault in sentencing guidelines reflects the severity of its consequences on the victim, families, and our society. The statute specifically states that someone guilty of first-degree sexual assault faces 25 years to life imprisonment. The statute of limitations reflects its seriousness and the reality of sexual assault offenses.
Prosecution for sexual assault may occur at any time (N.J. Stat. § 2C:1-6(a)(1)). In a charge of the lesser criminal sexual contact ( N.J.S.2C:14-3), the time for prosecution is shorter. It states that the case's prosecution must occur five years after the victim turns 18 or within two years of the discovery of the offense. Because the state can charge you at any point, you must prepare to defend against false allegations, possibly from decades ago.
The state is usually in a difficult position when there are allegations from a long time ago. There is likely a need for more tangible evidence, such as DNA and any witnesses.
We usually see recordings with an admission acknowledging or not denying the conduct. Like any other evidence, entering into evidence against you at trial must be legally permissible. For example, if the recording is choppy, you can request a "driver hearing." According to State v. Driver, 38 N.J. 255, a New Jersey Supreme Court case from 1962, the court must assess, outside the presence of the jury, whether the recording is "sufficiently audible, intelligible, not obviously fragmented, and, also of considerable importance, whether it contains any improper and prejudicial matter which ought to be deleted.”
Rape shield law
While preparing your defense in a rape case, you must be aware of the rape shield law. The rape shield law (N.J. Stat. § 2C:14-7) prevents you from bringing in any evidence of the sexual proclivities of the actual victim. As tempting as this may be when dealing with an individual who may have had a very active sex life, the judge must weigh the prejudicial effect of the presented evidence versus its probative value. Time and time again, it has been held that evidence of the sexual history, manner of dress, sexual employment, etc., is entirely prejudicial as to whether the incident charged occurred.
A commonly charged sexual assault involves “date rape.” As described in our statute, "sexual penetration" when the actor "knew or should have known" is "physically helpless or incapacitated, intellectually or mentally incapacitated." It may be crucial to your defense to find an expert who can speak to a jury regarding whether the victim was intoxicated or physically helpless. Remember that the victim has their perception under N.J. R. Evid. 701. In other words, an expert's opinion does not automatically dismiss the victim's common sense.
Going into a rape trial requires analysis of the victim, as much as the circumstances. The charges are brought at random, carry significant penalties, and require an attorney's expertise to help you navigate through your defense. Every case is unique, like every jury. Ensure you equip yourself with all the relevant knowledge by contacting A.Brown Esq. LLC 973-281-2388.