New Jersey Getting Tougher on Sex Crimes
Individuals facing charges for sex crimes in New Jersey have a lot of rights at stake. New Jersey is getting ready to become the 47th state in the country to pass laws enhancing the penalties for child sex crimes. These criminal charges that already had serious penalties may become even stricter.
Debate over the Jessica Lunsford Act
The New Jersey Senate passed the Jessica Lunsford Act earlier this year. The Act requires a minimum sentence of 25 years for people convicted of aggravated sexual assault against children under 13 years old.
Many people support this bill and c laim that the people who commit these crimes are dangerous and must be kept off the street. Others say the minimum sentencing is too broad and takes needed discretion away from prosecutors and judges. Some claim that there are already enough laws and safeguards on the books to protect the public. Also, some agree that certain offenders would be better served by treatment instead of jail time.
New Jersey has historically been tough on child sex crimes, but the state is only one of four states that have not yet adopted the Act, and some of the pressure to pass it may be political. The state and its officials do not want to look “soft” on crime.
Are minimum sentencing laws really necessary?
According to The Record, more than 17,000 people imprisoned in New Jersey were placed in prison because of minimum sentencing laws. That is over 70 percent of the current prison population. Some of these minimum sentencing laws were passed about 20 years ago when there was a movement for tougher penalties for drug crimes.
There is a similar push for tougher sex crimes as there was against drug crimes in the past. Some fear that the Internet has contributed to sex crimes as a way for alleged criminals to get in contact with their victims. However, many of the laws that have been passed have been questioned by researchers for their effectiveness. For example, a New Jersey
Department of Corrections researcher found that Megan’s Law, which requires a sex offender registry and community notifications, has had no effect on recidivism.
Several state legislatures are taking another look at their minimum sentencing laws because they may not be very cost effective. It is expensive to house inmates in prison, and if, as many people claim, minimum sentencing laws are ineffective at reducing recidivism then these laws should perhaps be eliminated.
The importance of a strong legal defense
People accused of sex crimes have a long road ahead of them. Being charged with a crime does not indicate guilt and police do make mistakes. An experienced criminal law attorney can help these people through the process and make sure that their rights are protected. In New Jersey, crimes involving sexual conduct can have serious consequences for the accused. These include being listed on the registry on the internet, prison time, child custody ramifications and even being prevented from freely choosing a place of residence. A person charged with a sex crime, particularly one involving minors, must take all precaution to mount a strong defense.