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.

 

 

 

Convictions for prostitution were not a single “crime spree” eligible for expungement, court holds

Criminal convictions can be expunged in New Jersey after a period of 10 years, but only for offenders who have no prior or subsequent convictions. In limited circumstances, an offender may be able to prove that multiple convictions were so closely related to each other that they form a single event for purposes of expungement, but this was not the case in a recent Appellate Division opinion denying expungement for two prosecution offenses. In re Expungement of the Crim. Records of C.A.D. (Jul. 18, 2013).

 

The petitioner in this case owned and operated two massage parlors that were fronts for prostitution. Middlesex County authorities arrested him in 2002 in connection with one of the massage parlors and charged him with various prostitution offenses. Two months later similar charges were filed against him in a separate indictment in Bergen County, where the second massage parlor was located. He eventually pled guilty to one count of fourth degree maintaining a nuisance in each case and after serving his probation he filed an expungement petition for both convictions in Middlesex County. Hoping to avoid the restriction on multiple convictions, he contended that his convictions were part of a common “crime spree” and should be treated as a single event for expungement.

 

The court rejected the petitioner’s “crime spree” argument and denied his request for expungement, concluding that he had been convicted of two separate offenses and failed to prove otherwise. As the court noted, the petitioner’s crimes occurred in different counties and resulted in different criminal indictments; they simply could not be considered truly simultaneous under the totality of the facts.

 

If you’re facing sex crimes charges in Middlesex County and have questions about the possible penalties and legal consequences, or if you have an existing sex crimes conviction that you’d like to get expunged, call the Law Offices of Palumbo & Renaud at 908-337-7353.

Fourth-Degree Lewdness vs. Third-Degree Child Endangerment

Under New Jersey law, a person commits lewd acts when he exposes his genitals for a sexual purpose and “he knows or reasonably suspects [that he] is likely to be observed by other non-consenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed.” Lewdness is normally a disorderly persons offense with a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison, but when lewd acts are committed in front of a child under the age of 13, the offense becomes raised to a fourth degree crime with penalty of 6-18 months in prison. N.J.S.A. 2c:14-4.

 

In addition to carrying more significant penalties than run-of-the-mill lewdness offenses, crimes that are charged as fourth degree lewdness also tend to be charged as third degree child endangerment. This offense, which carries even steeper penalties than fourth degree lewdness (3 to 5 years in prison for child endangerment, as opposed to a maximum of 18 months for lewdness) occurs when a person engages in sexual conduct “which would impair or debauch the morals of a child” under the age of 16. N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4.

 

The New Jersey Supreme Court addressed the relationship between fourth degree lewdness and third degree child endangerment in State v. Hackett, 166 N.J. 66 (2001). The case involved a man who was charged with both offenses after repeatedly standing nude in the front window of his house, in full view of several children at a school bus stop.

 

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions on both counts. Although the court cautioned that a conviction for fourth degree lewdness won’t automatically sustain a conviction for third degree child endangerment, the court found that the same evidence could be used to prove both offenses, so long as the distinct elements of each crime were satisfied. Disagreeing with the lower court, which had found the defendant’s “mere nudity” insufficient to prove the child endangerment charge, the court found that the jury had a thin but sufficient basis for its guilty verdict. “This was not a case involving a child’s stolen glimpse of nudity,” the court explained, “but instead… repeated instances when the defendant allowed himself to be viewed naked, through an unobstructed window, by girls who were age thirteen and under.” Attracting the children’s attention in such a flagrant and repetitive way, the court found, could have been viewed by the jury as evidence that the defendant sought to debauch the children’s morals. As the court emphasized, the question was not whether the children’s morals were actually debauched, but whether the defendant’s actions amounted to sexual conduct that was likely to debauch the children’s morals.

 

For more information about lewdness or child endangerment charges, or to schedule a free legal consultation in your case, call me, Anthony N. Palumbo, Union County Criminal Defense Lawyer, at 908-337-7353.

 

Union County teacher arrested for sexually assaulting 14 year old girl

A middle school teacher and softball coach in Union County has been arrested for carrying on a sexual relationship with a 14 year old girl. He is being held on $400,000 bail and has been charged with two counts of first degree aggravated sexual assault, two counts of second degree sexual assault, one count of second degree luring, one count of second degree endangering the welfare of a child, one count of third degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, and one count of fourth degree criminal sexual contact.

 

Allegations of child sexual abuse are taken very seriously in New Jersey and can result in lengthy jail terms, steep fines, and lifetime inclusion on the state’s sex offender registry. Just being accused of child sexual abuse, however, can ruin a person’s reputation and destroy their family and professional relationships forever, even if they’re not guilty. Because of this, it’s vitally important that defendants facing child sex crimes charges consult with a knowledgeable attorney before speaking to police or making any deals with prosecutors. Their lawyers may be able to negotiate for reduced charges or even secure an acquittal based on constitutional violations, inadequate evidence, or procedural errors.

 

If you need an attorney to represent you against child sexual abuse accusations, you can contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo. As a partner at the law firm of  Palumbo & Renaud, I have more than 35 years of experience and I know the best tactics and strategies to win your case or negotiate a favorable plea bargain. Send me an email or call me at 1-866-664-8118 to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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.

 

New allegations against Middlesex County man charged with child sexual assault

A Middlesex County man already facing sexual assault charges involving four people has now been accused of sexually assaulting two more children, NJ.com reports. In addition to charges for sexual assault, he is also being charged with endangering the welfare of children for showing them pornographic materials.

 

Under New Jersey law, sexually assaulting a child who is less than 13 years old qualifies as second degree child sexual assault, an offense punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison, unless the actor commits an act of sexual penetration with the child, in which case the charge is upgraded to first degree aggravated sexual assault and is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison.

 

The crime 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, among other things. The severity of child endangerment charges varies depending on the underlying offense, ranging from fourth degree criminal charges for viewing child pornography to first degree criminal charges for parents who film their children engaging in prohibited sexual acts.

 

If you’ve been charged with child sexual assault or child endangerment, 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 as prosecutor, public defender, and criminal defense lawyer. Contact me today for a free initial consultation through the email form on this website or at 1-866-664-8118.

 

More information about crimes against children on my website:

  • Endangering the Welfare of Children
  • Child Pornography
  • Child Pornography Charges
  • Child Molestation
  • Child Molestation by Family Members or Friends
  • Child Sexual Assault

New Jersey Supreme Court applies Rape Shield Law to bar “vague allegations” regarding rape victim’s past sexual conduct

The New Jersey Supreme Court applied the state’s Rape Shield Law in a recent case and held, as in previous cases, that vague allegations regarding a rape victim’s past sexual conduct are inadmissible at trial.

 

New Jersey’s Rape Shield Law restricts the ability of defendants in sex crimes trials to introduce evidence of the victim’s past sexual conduct and provides detailed procedures that the defendant must follow if he wishes to receive permission to introduce such evidence. Although intended to protect the privacy of rape victims and prevent unwarranted attacks on their moral character, the Rape Shield Law poses a competing threat to the defendant’s constitutional right to confront the person accusing him. Because of this, the courts conduct a highly sensitive balancing process comparing the relevance of the proffered evidence, its necessity to the defense, and its apparent veracity against the potential to humiliate the victim, invade her privacy, and confuse the jury.

 

In the case before the New Jersey Supreme Court, the defendant was found guilty of sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a minor. The DNA evidence collected from the victim was insufficient to conduct a complete DNA analysis, but testing did not exclude the defendant. He sought to introduce evidence that another male was the source of the DNA, based on testimony about the victim’s past sexual encounters, but he was unable to produce specific names or the dates when those alleged encounters occurred.

 

This evidence, the court held, amounted to nothing more than the vague allegations and was barred by the Rape Shield Law. As the court explained, any evidence of the victim’s sexual history was irrelevant to the issue of the defendant’s guilt unless the evidence showed that the victim had sex with another man between the time of the alleged assault and the time when her rape kit was taken. The court also found that the evidence had little probative value because there was no clear proof that the alleged prior sexual conduct actually occurred and because the defendant was able to introduce expert testimony regarding the limited nature of the DNA evidence.

 

To learn more about sex crimes in New Jersey, visit www.palumbo-renaud.com/Sex-Offenses.

Union County man arrested for child sexual abuse

As NJ.com reports, a man trying to flee the country was recently arrested in Union County and charged with sexually abusing two young children. Officials have learned the first names of two additional victims and are currently trying to identify them.

 

Under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, committing an act of sexual penetration with a victim who is less than 13 years old is classified as first degree aggravated sexual assault and is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison. Committing other types of sexual contact with a victim under 13 years old can be separately charged as a second degree sexual assault, which carries penalties of 5 to 10 years in prison. Charges for endangering the welfare of a child are also common in child sex abuse cases.

 

In addition to these penalties, convicted child sex offenders must also register as sex offenders under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law. This can be one of the most difficult parts of a child sex abuse case because registration is very public and can continue after prison or even permanently, severely damaging offenders’ reputations and making it difficult for them to obtain housing and employment.

 

If you’ve been charged with child sexual abuse in Union County or anywhere else in New Jersey, you need a knowledgeable and skilled sex crimes defense attorney who will fight to have your charges dismissed or downgraded. Being accused of a child sex crime can have serious consequences, and even if you’re innocent, the mere accusation can cost you your professional and personal reputation. If you need assistance in defending yourself against sexual assault charges, contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney, through the email form on my website or at 1-866-664-8118 for a free and confidential consultation.

 

More information about crimes against children on my website:

  • Endangering the Welfare of Children
  • Child Pornography
  • Child Pornography Charges
  • Child Molestation
  • Child Molestation by Family Members or Friends
  • Child Sexual Assault

 

Union County man arrested for child sexual abuse

As NJ.com reports, a man trying to flee the country was recently arrested in Union County and charged with sexually abusing two young children. Officials have learned the first names of two additional victims and are currently trying to identify them.

 

Under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, committing an act of sexual penetration with a victim who is less than 13 years old is classified as first degree aggravated sexual assault and is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison. Committing other types of sexual contact with a victim under 13 years old can be separately charged as a second degree sexual assault, which carries penalties of 5 to 10 years in prison. Charges for endangering the welfare of a child are also common in child sex abuse cases.

 

In addition to these penalties, convicted child sex offenders must also register as sex offenders under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law. This can be one of the most difficult parts of a child sex abuse case because registration is very public and can continue after prison or even permanently, severely damaging offenders’ reputations and making it difficult for them to obtain housing and employment.

 

If you’ve been charged with child sexual abuse in Union County or anywhere else in New Jersey, you need a knowledgeable and skilled sex crimes defense attorney who will fight to have your charges dismissed or downgraded. Being accused of a child sex crime can have serious consequences, and even if you’re innocent, the mere accusation can cost you your professional and personal reputation. If you need assistance in defending yourself against sexual assault charges, contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, on my website www.palumbo-renaud.com or at 1-866-664-8118 for a free and confidential consultation.

 


Sex offender harboring legislation advances in New Jersey Senate

As reported by NJ.com, a bill pending in the New Jersey Senate would impose a mandatory three year sentence on anyone convicted of harboring sex offenders, impeding their arrest, or helping them to avoid sex offender registration requirements. The bill was approved by the Law and Public Safety Committee and will soon be voted on by the full Senate.

 

Being accused of a sex crime can have serious consequences, including prison time and fines, civil commitment, and registration under New Jersey’s Megan’s Law. Even if you’re innocent, the mere accusation can permanently damage your reputation. And as this legislation shows, aiding sex offenders can carry stiff consequences even if you didn’t actually commit a sex crime.

 

If you’ve been charged with a sex crime, contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney, through the email form on my website or at 1-866-664-8118 for a free and confidential consultation. I am a partner at the criminal defense law firm Palumbo & Renaud, and I know what it takes to fight sex crimes charges successfully. As a former prosecutor and current criminal defense attorney with more than 35 years of experience, I have the resources, skills, and expertise to aggressively defend you and protect your legal rights.

 

Palumbo & Renaud is a New Jersey criminal defense law firm with offices in Cranford, Elizabeth, Newark, and Manasquan, and we represent individuals throughout New Jersey, including Essex County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County and Union County.