When a jury convicts someone of sexual assault, there are several factors that the judge considers when determining how the individual will be punished. These include the severity of the crime, state statutes regarding sentencing, and mitigating and aggravating circumstances.
The term "sexual assault" is used in New Jersey as the legal phrase for "rape." Sexual assault is defined as any sexual penetration in which coercion or physical force was used or sexual penetration in which the sufferer is mentally or physically incapacitated. This encompasses a variety of sexual contact and degrees of intimidation or force.
A judge examines the severity of the act following a jury conviction. Some examples of the range of acts that constitute sexual assault include sexual contact with a minor under the age of 13 when the defendant is older than 17; penetration with a victim 16 to 18 years old when the defendant is a relative or subordinate; or penetration with a victim 13 to 16 years old when the defendant is older by four years. The charge becomes aggravated sexual assault when penetration occurs with a victim under the age of 13; the victim is 13 to 16 years old and the defendant is a relative or has control; the victim is incapacitated; or the penetration is committed with the threat of or with a weapon or during another crime.
Along with the severity of the crime, the judge considers mitigating and aggravating circumstances. Mitigating factors provide support for a less severe sentence, while aggravating factors suggest the need for a more severe sentence, such as a criminal history. The judge also reviews state law concerning punishment. In New Jersey, the maximum sentence for felony second-degree sexual assault is 10 years imprisonment, and the maximum for felony first-degree aggravated sexual assault is 20 years imprisonment.
People who are accused of sexual assault have the right to defend themselves, which might involve hiring attorneys. The attorneys could ask private investigators to help them gather evidence that invalidates the prosecutors' evidence.