Child Abuse and Neglect
New Jersey defines an abused child as anyone under 18 years of age who has been abused, abandoned, neglected or subject to cruelty by a parent, guardian or anyone else. An abuser is someone who intentionally inflicts or physically harms, or allows such harm to a child.
Anyone who abandons a child is subject to a child abuse or neglect charge as well.
If you are accused of engaging in sexual contact with the child, abusing or neglecting the child or abandoning a child, you can be charged with child endangerment. This includes failure to provide adequate nutrition, housing, clothing, or subjecting the child to safety risks or maltreatment.
Common examples are: leaving children in an overly heated car, making them perform excruciating tasks that physically harm them, starving them, failing to give them prescribed medication or failing to take them to a healthcare provider if they are extremely ill, or leaving them in an apartment for hours at a time.
Child Endangerment is a crime of either the second, third or fourth degree depending on the abuser’s relationship to the child and the extent of the abuse. For, instance, a person who has a legal duty to care for the child and abuses the child can be charged with a second degree crime which carries a jail sentence of up to 10 years.
This offense occurs when an adult has sexual contact with a child who is at least 13 but under 16 years of age, and the offender is at least four years older than the child.
An actor who commits an act of sexual penetration on another person, regardless of age, commits a sexual assault if:
1. he uses physical force or coercion, but the victim does not sustain severe personal injury; or
2. the victim is on probation or parole, or is detained in a hospital, prison or other institution and the actor has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the actor’s legal, professional or occupational status; or
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. he actor is a resource family parent, a guardian, or stands in loco parentis within the household; or
d. the victim is at least 13 but not less than 16 years old and the actor is at least four years older than the victim.
It is considered a crime in the second degree with a penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison. In some circumstances, the actor must serve 85% of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Aggravated Sexual Assault
This offense is committed by an adult who sexually penetrates a child who is under 13 years of age.
If the child is at least 13 years old and under 16 years of age, the adult must be:
1. related to the child by blood or affinity of the third degree;
2. have supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the actor’s legal, professional or occupational status; or
3. be a resource family parent, a guardian, or stands in loco parentis within the household and also be a parent, guardian, or have supervisory or disciplinary power over the child. The offender can also be someone having a legal, professional or occupational relationship with the child. A physician, psychologist, athletic coach or child care worker would also be included.
An actor commits aggravated sexual assault if he penetrates the victim, regardless of age, during the commission or attempted commission, whether alone or with one or more other persons, of robbery, kidnapping, homicide, aggravates assault on another, burglary, arson or criminal escape.
Aggravated sexual assault is also committed when an actor penetrates the victim, regardless of age, and the actor is armed with a weapon or any objection that would reasonably lead the victim to believe it is a weapon and threatens by word or gesture to use the weapon or object.
Aggravated Sexual Assault is a crime of the first degree. It carries a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison subject to the No Early Release Act, which means the actor must serve 85% of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.
If you have reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused, you may be obligated to report the abuse to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, or to call 911 if there is an immediate risk to the child. The call can be anonymous.
A caller who makes the report in good faith is not subject to any criminal or civil liability if the abuse turns out to not have occurred, or the person suspected is deemed not to have committed an offense.
A person who observed the abuse or should have reasonably known or suspected abuse that does not report it, may be convicted of a disorderly person offense and may be subject to a fine of $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.
An intentionally false report is treated as a disorderly persons violation, although the person could also be charged with filing a false police report.
Personnel from schools, childcare centers, hospitals, residential treatment centers, foster homes and any other institutional setting must report instances of suspected child abuse to the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services.
Social workers, teachers, physicians and healthcare workers, child care providers and law enforcement officers are also required to report any reasonable suspicions. Issues involving confidentiality may affect therapists who, nonetheless, are required to report any suspected child abuse.
Anyone who is arrested and charged with child abuse, child neglect or a criminal sexual conduct offense against a child faces very serious charges that can result in a long prison sentence, removal of children from his or her home, and be subject to lifetime registration and parole conditions.
Do not, under any circumstances, give a statement to law enforcement or anyone from child protective services or any other governmental agency.
If you are incarcerated while awaiting a court appearance, immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. Do not discuss your case with any inmate, guard or on the phone.
There are defenses to any crime and a qualified criminal defense attorney can protect your rights and ensure a fair trial and present your side of the case effectively. Your communications should only be with your criminal defense attorney who can explore and investigate the facts of your case and offer the best suggestions on how to defend you.
If you have been accused of child abuse, child neglect or sexual assault, we want to hear your story.