Recent changes to New Jersey’s child sexual abuse and child pornography laws

A bill recently enacted makes significant changes to New Jersey’s child sexual abuse and child pornography laws. The new provisions clarify the law, update it to apply to a broader range of technologies, and expand the penalties for child sexual abuse and exploitation, bringing it more into line with federal law.

 

Key provisions in the new law include the following:

  • Minors up to the age of 18 are now protected from sexual abuse and exploitation under the child endangerment statute. Previously, the statute only protected minors up to the age of 16.
  • Updated definitions and terminology have been incorporated into the child sexual abuse and child pornography statutes to better address digital technology and to prevent offenders from using new technology to exploit loopholes in the law.
  • The legislation expands the scope of criminal liability for child pornography possession, distribution, and production offenses. Some offenses have been upgraded and subject to harsher penalties, while other offenses are now subject to mandatory minimum sentences.
  • The law also adds a provision to Megan’s Law authorizing special lifetime parole supervision for child pornography offenders, and it makes these offenses ineligible for expungement.

 

For more information about child sexual assault and child pornography offenses in New Jersey, contact the Law Offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 908-337-7353 and ask to schedule a free legal consultation. Sex Crime attorney Anthony N. Palumbo serves clients facing all types of criminal charges, primarily in Essex County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County, and Union County. Call today and find out how Mr. Palumbo can help you with your charges.

 

 

 

New Jersey Supreme Court throws out evidence in child sex abuse case due to violation of state wiretap law

The New Jersey Supreme Court held in July that key evidence in a child sexual abuse case had to be suppressed due to a violation of the state’s wiretap laws. The statutory procedure for obtaining prosecutorial approval before placing a wiretap had to be strictly followed, the court concluded, and any wiretap evidence collected without such prior approval would be rendered inadmissible. State v. K.W. (Jul. 11, 2013).

 

The defendant in State v. K.W. was charged with multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and child endangerment in relation to the sexual abuse of his daughter over a two-year period. She reported the abuse when she was 13 and was referred to the Assistant Essex County Prosecutor, who proposed placing a wiretap on her mother’s phone line to gather evidence. The Assistant Prosecutor then sought approval for the wiretap from an authorized designee of the County Prosecutor, as required under the wiretap statute, and obtained an authorization from his supervisor. He was mistaken about his supervisor being an authorized designee, however, and didn’t obtain the necessary prosecutorial approval until after the wiretap had already been concluded.

 

In determining whether to suppress the wiretap evidence, the court looked to the history of the wiretap statute and the legislature’s emphasis on privacy and the need to prevent law enforcement from having unfettered discretion to spy on telephone conversations. With these concerns in mind the court found that the statute had to be strictly applied, with any deviation from the prior approval requirement resulting in suppression of the evidence. The wiretap evidence against K.W. had to be thrown own, accordingly, despite the fact that it had been collected in good faith. The prosecution could still rely on evidence collected under a search warrant for the defendant’s property, however, because it had been obtained independently of the wiretap.

 

For more information about fighting sex crimes charges in New Jersey, call the law offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 908-337-7353.

Gunnison Beach Topless Sunbathing: Illegal for Women at Most New Jersey Beaches

With the exception of Gunnison Beach, all of New Jersey’s public beaches prohibit nudity. More often than not, these nudity restrictions apply to female breasts as well as to more intimate body parts, even though many women prefer to sunbathe topless and many people find the practice non-offensive.

 

Being arrested for topless sunbathing is no day at the beach, but a New Jersey Public Nudity Defense Attorney can help you understand the legal process you’re facing, how to move forward, and the best ways to protect your rights and reputation. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation in your case, call me, Anthony N. Palumbo, Monmouth County Criminal Defense Lawyer, at 908-337-7353.

 

Public Nudity Ordinances vs. Lewdness Charges

New Jersey municipalities have the authority to enact their own public nudity laws banning women from exposing their breasts in public and providing penalties such as fines and community service. While local public ordinances may come into play, however, New Jersey’s lewdness law generally won’t be implicated in cases brought against topless women. That’s because the statute defines “lewd acts” very specifically as “the exposing of the genitals,” without any inclusion of other possibly-erotic body parts such as breasts. The statute also provides that lewd acts must have a primarily sexual motivation, and topless sunbathing, which has various non-sexual motivations (e.g., comfort, prevention of tan lines) will rarely meet this test.

 

No Equal Rights to Sunbathe Topless

Although the New York courts have held that women have a right to appear topless wherever men can do so, People v. Santorelli, 80 N.Y.2d 875 (1992), similar equal protection arguments were rejected by the New Jersey Appellate Division in State v. Feeley, 2011 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2402 (Sep. 14, 2011).

 

The defendant in State v. Feeley was arrested when she removed her bathing suit top while sitting on a public beach in Monmouth County. She was charged with violating the borough’s public nudity ordinance and was taken to police headquarters, where she was processed and given a shirt to wear. She abandoned this shirt shortly after being released, however, and was arrested again after the police received a call about a topless woman walking near the station. (Her shirt was later found hanging from the door of the station building.)

 

At trial, the defendant argued that the public nudity ordinance violated her rights to equal protection because men were allowed to appear topless at the public beach but women were not. The Appellate Division rejected this argument and affirmed the $750 fine in her case, relying on an earlier New Jersey case, State v. Vogt, 341 N.J. Super. 407 (2001). As the court explained in that case, there is no constitutional right in New Jersey for a woman to appear topless on a public beach, and restrictions on the exposure of the female breast, even if based on gender distinctions, are supported by the important governmental interest in safeguarding the public’s moral sensibilities.

 

No First Amendment Right to Sunbathe Topless

The First Amendment freedom of speech is another defense sometimes raised in challenges to public nudity laws. In New Jersey, however, Tri-State Metro Naturists v. Lower, 219 N.J. Super. 103 (1987), established that there’s no freedom of expression inherent in the act of topless sunbathing. “While there may be an element of nonverbal expression inherent in nude sunbathing,” the court explained, “its communicative character is not sufficiently distinct to warrant constitutional protection.” The plaintiffs in this case, nudists who had been arrested for being topless in a state park, had succeeded in overturning their convictions under the state’s lewdness law, but their challenges to the local public nudity ordinance did not fare as well. In addition to throwing out their First Amendment challenge, the court rejected their arguments based on the right to privacy, the freedom of association, vagueness, nudity as a protected liberty, state preemption, and state sovereignty over state lands.

 

Exception for Breastfeeding Mothers

One notable but narrow defense to local public nudity laws is available for breastfeeding mothers. Under state law, these women are entitled to nurse their children in any place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement. N.J.S.A. 26:4B-4. While this right may not allow nursing mothers to sunbathe topless under the pretext of breastfeeding, it does allow them to expose their breasts to a larger extent than permitted under many local ordinances.

 

A Public Nudity Defense Lawyer Can Help in Your Case

Despite the reluctance of New Jersey courts to recognize equal protection or free speech challenges to public nudity ordinances, a strong legal defense can still undermine the prosecution’s case by challenging the admissibility of evidence or raising procedural errors. And even if you were caught in the flesh (pun intended), your attorney may still be able to get your charges reduced by negotiating a favorable plea deal.

 

For more information or to speak with an experienced New Jersey Public Nudity Defense Lawyer, contact the law firm of Palumbo & Renaud at 1-866-664-8118. Lead defense attorney Anthony N. Palumbo has nearly four decades of experience handling public nudity and indecent exposure cases, and he’s often able to help clients get their charges reduced to minor violations or even get them dismissed altogether. Palumbo & Renaud also treats their clients’ privacy with the highest level of respect and discretion, taking every precaution to ensure that clients’ reputations are protected from potentially embarrassing charges such as public nudity.

Essex County sex offender entitled to withdraw guilty plea, court holds

An Essex County man who pled guilty to third degree child endangerment charges in 2005 was granted post-conviction relief by a New Jersey appeals court in December. The defendant, Carlton Green, filed for relief after he had completed his 3 year sentence and was civilly committed as a sexually violent predator, claiming that his plea counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him that he faced the possibility of lifetime commitment. The court agreed and held that the initial guilty plea had to be vacated. State v. Green, No. A-1826-11T4 (N.J. Super. Dec. 27, 2012).

 

The record in Green’s case showed that he had acknowledged the risk of being civilly committed during a brief interchange with the judge at his sentence hearing, but his plea counsel did not recollect whether he had actually explained to Green what this meant. Importantly, Green’s signature was also conspicuously absent from the plea form which detailed the possibility of lifetime civil commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator Act and Green testified that he believed he was facing just 3 years in jail.

 

In State v. Bellamy, the New Jersey Supreme Court addressed a claim of ineffective counsel in the context of the Sexually Violent Predator Act and held that “when the consequence of a plea may be so severe that a defendant may be confined for the remainder of his or her life, fundamental fairness demands that the trial court inform defendant of that possible consequence.” In such cases, the failure of either the court or defense counsel to sufficiently explain the consequences deprives the defendant of information which is needed to make a knowing and voluntary plea, and the appropriate remedy is to remand the case and allow the defendant to withdraw the plea.

 

The court found that the Bellamy standard was not met in this case, as the record was “completely barren of any written plea forms that mention” civil commitment and the only time that it was mentioned during Green’s hearing was a “stray comment of the judge who oversaw the plea allocution.” The court also emphasized that under Bellamy, Green did not need to show that the result of the case would have been different had he been aware of the consequence of possible lifetime commitment; rather, “no additional showing beyond a lack of knowledge is required, which was clearly provided through Green’s uncontradicted testimony on remand.”

 

If you’ve been charged with a sex offense in New Jersey, the last thing you need is a lawyer who doesn’t know how to defend you or who doesn’t care enough to help you understand your case. The results can be disastrous, as this case demonstrates, with wasted years of incarceration and appeals. The much better route is to consult with an experienced sex crime defense lawyer at the earliest possible date so that you can prevent major errors from occurring and make sure that you’ve chosen the best legal strategy to protect your rights and reduce your penalties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essex County doctor found guilty of harassment but acquitted on sexual assault charges

Raymond Russomanno, a Bloomfield doctor charged with inappropriately touching the breasts and buttocks of several of his female patients, was found guilty in December on 12 counts of harassment but was acquitted on 2 counts of attempted sexual assault and 12 counts of criminal sexual contact. Russomanno faces up to 30 days in jail for each count of harassment, or up to 360 days total. He’s also awaiting sentencing for a 2011 conviction for 4 counts of criminal sexual contact and will be sentenced for both convictions simultaneously.

 

Although the doctor in this case was acquitted of attempted sexual assault, it’s possible that such an offense could be found in the doctor-patient context. As set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, an actor would be guilty of the crime if he attempted to commit an act of sexual penetration in circumstances where the victim was detained in a hospital or other institution and the actor had some supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of his legal, professional, or occupational status. Proving that a patient is “detained” and subject to a doctor’s “supervisory” powers is a difficult task, and likely the reason why these charges were dismissed.

 

Criminal sexual contact is a less serious offense and generally covers inappropriate sexual touching, but some aggravating factor usually has to be in play for the offense to apply, such as the use of force or the involvement of children. For adult victims who have already consented to be examined by a doctor, even criminal sexual contact could be a difficult charge to prove, especially if the nature of the medical examination being performed called for some touching of the victim’s body. The charge could still be sustained in this type of case given enough evidence, however. Indeed, the article noted that Russomanno was convicted of criminal sexual contact in an earlier case also involving alleged sexual abuse of his patients.

 

In the end, Russomanno was convicted only for harassment, which isn’t usually considered a sex offense. Harassment, rather, is a petty disorderly persons offense that occurs when a person subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so. As the article noted, harassment is punishable by up to 30 days per count.

A Millstone Man was Charged in a Child Prostitution Scheme after Monmouth County Police Discovered he had Engaged in Relations with a Minor

A Millstone man was arrested by Monmouth County investigators after allegedly taking part in child prostitution. The man faces charges of second-degree sexual assault and third-degree endangering the welfare of a minor in connection with having sex with the 15-year-old boy. The man was accused of having sex with the boy at his Millstone residence. He was arrested at his home by State Police, and released after posting $250,000 full bail. Because of the age of the victim, the accused in this case faces significant criminal penalties.

If convicted, the defendant would likely be forced to register under Megan’s Law as a child sex offender. In New Jersey, Megan’s law sex offender registry requires convicted sex offenders to provide information to local police about what they look like, where they live, type of car they drive and their past crimes so the police can be aware of their presence. Police then distribute this information based on the prescribed offender level of the registrant to appropriate community officials. The higher the level of offender (one through three with three being the highest tier), the more notice will be provided to the community including local school officials and potentially neighbors within a two block radius. Importantly, this information must be distributed by police according to certain procedures so as not to violate the registrant’s rights to privacy. Once on Megan’s List, it is possible to be designated a reduced tier over time through status conferences with county prosecutors. Good behavior over a prolonged period of time as well as compliance with counseling and other programs often help offenders in reducing their Megan’s Law tier designations. After a prolonged period of time, it is even possible to be removed from Megan’s Law completely.
I, Anthony N. Palumbo, a New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer, understand the workings of the law and can properly defend accused persons in sexual assault offenses as well as those who
have been convicted of solicitation of a prostitute. Visit my website, www.palumho-renaud.com for more information. I have been defending individuals against sexual assault charges, including those involving minors, in New Jersey for almost four decades. As a longstanding member of the legal community, a former prosecutor, and a current public defender, I can give you an honest assessment of the penalties you face and the best possible avenues of relief.

If you would like to discuss your case, freely and confidentially, with an experienced attorney at no obligation, contact me at 908-337-7353 for a free consultation.

Online sting operation nabs Monmouth County man for attempted child sex crimes

A Monmouth County man was arrested for attempted child endangerment and attempted luring after engaging in sexually explicit internet chats with a Passaic County sheriff’s officer posing as a 12 year old girl. The man, unaware that his chat partner was a police officer, allegedly asked to meet the girl several times to go camping, to the mall, and horseback riding. On two occasions he also initiated video chats with the officer and exposed his genitals.

 

The offense of endangering the welfare of a child applies when an actor engages in a prohibited sexual act with a child who is less than 16 years old. “Prohibited sexual acts” include not just sexual penetration, but also bestiality, sadism, masochism, oral sex, and the possession, creation, or distribution of child pornography. As a result, the offense encompasses many different types of crimes, ranging from consensual sexual activities between adults and minor children to more egregious cases of child sexual abuse, and the penalties increase along with the severity of those circumstances. To prove charges of attempted child endangerment, as in this case, the state has to prove that the actor took a substantial step in a course of conduct that would have constituted child endangerment if the offense was completed. Attempted child endangerment generally carries the same penalty that would apply had the crime been completed.

 

Luring is a separate crime that occurs when a person attempts to lure or entice a child under the age of 18 into a motor vehicle, structure, or isolated area, or attempts to convince the child to meet or appear at any other place, with a purpose to commit a criminal offense against the child.  Luring is generally a second degree crime and carries a penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison.

 

The use of online “sting operations” to catch child predators has become increasingly common in recent years as sex offenders have learned to use chat rooms, social networking sites, and other online tools to lure minors into sexual situations. These law enforcement operations, however, may be susceptible to challenges of unlawful entrapment if the defendant can prove that the police officer’s conduct would have coerced an otherwise law-abiding individual to commit the crime under similar circumstances.

 

I am Anthony N. Palumbo, New Jersey sex crimes defense attorney, and I’ve represented clients against charges of luring and solicitation of minors for nearly 40 years. If you’ve been arrested as part of an online sting operation and believe that you were a victim of entrapment, contact me at  908-337-7353 to discuss your case, confidentially and at no cost. It’s possible that you could have other defenses available in your case, such as constitutional claims or evidentiary challenges, and even if you were caught red-handed, you might still be able to negotiate a favorable plea deal and have the charges reduced.

Essex County prosecutors accuse teacher of sexual abuse

A former “Teacher of the Year” from West Orange was recently accused of sexually abusing a 15 year old boy in her English class. The teacher, who former students say was “flirtatious” and prone to inappropriate behavior, was charged with first degree aggravated sexual assault, second degree sexual assault, and endangering the welfare of a child.

 

Sexual assault is a second degree crime in New Jersey and is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison, severe fines, and inclusion in the state’s sex offender registry. However, the charges can be upgraded to first degree aggravated sexual assault in situations such as this one where the actor had supervisory authority over the victim. First degree aggravated sexual assault carries penalties of up to 20 years in jail upon conviction and requires lifetime registration as a sex offender.

 

If you’ve been accused of a sex crime in Essex County or anywhere else in New Jersey, contact a lawyer immediately to discuss your case and the chances for having your charges reduced or dismissed. A skilled criminal defense lawyer will help you understand the complexities of the trial process and fight for your right to a fair trial throughout the ordeal.

 

I am Anthony N. Palumbo, a partner at the firm of Palumbo & Renaud, and you can schedule a free and confidential consultation with me by contacting me online www.palumbo-renaud.com or at 908-337-7353.

Essex County court finds no Sixth Amendment right to self-representation in commitment proceedings under the Sexually Violent Predator Act

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County, ruled in June that there is no constitutional right to self-representation in commitment hearings held pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA). The case, In re Civil Commitment of D.Y.., involved a 52 year old man who was committed as a sexually violent predator after serving time for first degree aggravated sexual assault.

 

The SVPA provides for the involuntary commitment of any person “who has been convicted… of a sexually violent offense… and suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined to a secure facility for control, care and treatment.” Involuntary commitment requires the state to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the individual poses a threat to the health and safety of others. In this case, the trial court ruled that the prosecution met this standard based on the defendant’s long history of repeated pedophiliac sexual assaults and expert testimony establishing that he was sexually attracted to young males and had anti-social personality disorder. The defendant’s high risk of reoffending was also indicated by his longstanding resistance to treatment and his denial of sexual deviation.

 

At the defendant’s commitment hearing, his lawyer informed the court that he wished to represent himself. The trial court denied this request, however, because of a provision in the statute requiring defendants to be represented by legal counsel. The defendant argued on appeal that this violated his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation, but the Superior Court disagreed. As the court explained, the right to self-representation applies only to criminal prosecutions and does not extend to civil actions such as commitment proceedings brought under the SVPA.

 

Even though defendants have the right to represent themselves in criminal proceedings for sex crimes and other offenses, having an attorney is invaluable and can mean the difference between conviction and acquittal. If you’ve been charged with a sexual offense in New Jersey and need a defense attorney to represent you, contact the law firm of Palumbo & Renaud to arrange a free and confidential consultation.

 

Essex County man arrested for role in statewide child pornography ring

An Essex County man was arrested along with more than two dozen others following a three-month investigation into a child pornography ring, NorthJersey.com reports. The suspects were charged with distribution and possession of child pornography, according to authorities.

Distributing child pornography is considered a second degree crime in New Jersey, subject to a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison, and the possession of child pornography is a fourth degree crime, subject to a sentence of up to 18 months imprisonment. Child pornography may also be prosecuted under federal law.

In addition to imprisonment, a person convicted on child pornography charges may also be required to register as a sex offender under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law.

 

If you’ve been charged with a child pornography crime, I urge you to seek legal advice immediately. My name is Anthony N. Palumbo, and I am a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney with more than 35 years of experience. Contact me today for a free initial consultation through the email form on this website or at 1-866-664-8118, and I will carefully go through the facts of your case to make sure that all possible defenses are raised on your behalf.