New Jersey Internet Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer

Using the internet to solicit minors, to view or distribute child pornography, or to engage in cyber-stalking can lead to serious criminal penalties in New Jersey, including fines, incarceration, and mandatory sex offender registration. Even if you're innocent, just being accused of an online sex offense can be enough to destroy your reputation forever.

Accused of an Online Sex Offense in New Jersey?

If you've been arrested for an internet sex crime, contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo, New Jersey Internet Sex Crimes 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 online 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.

This article provides a general overview of the laws that apply to online sex offenses, but it is not comprehensive and it is in no way intended as a replacement for the invaluable role that an attorney can play in your case.

Internet Child Pornography

Child pornography includes various types of electronic and online media that depict children in a manner intended for sexual stimulation. Under New Jersey law, child pornography encompasses pornographic materials that involve a minor under the age of 16. Federal law is stricter, however, and covers children until they are 18 years old.

In New Jersey, creating child pornography or knowingly allowing a child to engage in the creation of pornographic material qualifies as second degree child endangerment and is punishable by a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison. The offense is upgraded to a first degree crime, with an increased sentence of 10 to 20 years, if the offender is the child's parent or guardian, or has some other legal responsibility for the child. Distributing child pornography in any manner, including over the internet, is a second degree crime, subject to 5 to 10 years imprisonment, and possessing child pornography-or even just knowingly viewing it-is a fourth degree crime subject to up to 18 months in jail. These sentences can be aggregated if multiple items of child pornography are involved, which can lead to very lengthy sentences. And offenders convicted for internet child pornography in New Jersey may also be subject to federal law and laws in other states.

It's important to understand that child pornography crimes are strict liability offenses, which means that it makes no difference if the offender didn't know that the person in the pornographic material was a minor, even if he reasonably believed that the child was an adult. On the other hand, it is a defense if the person in the pornographic material was actually an adult, even if the offender believed that he or she was a minor, or if the materials were limited to virtual child pornography, which uses computer-generated images, drawings, or other representations, but no actual children.

Internet Solicitation of a Minor

The use of chat rooms, social networking sites, and other online tools to solicit minors to engage in sexual activities is one of the most common internet sex crimes. Such communications constitute second degree luring under New Jersey law and are punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison if the actor, with the intention of committing a criminal offense (such as child sexual assault), attempts to lure or entice a child under the age of 18 to meet with him.

Internet Lewdness

Transmitting sexually explicit images of oneself to another person via webcam, email, or other electronic means could be prosecuted as lewdness if the communication is intended for sexual arousal and the offender knows or reasonably expects that it will be observed by a nonconsenting person who would be affronted or alarmed by it. Lewdness in such cases is a disorderly persons offense, subject to up to 6 months in prison, but the charge is increased to a fourth degree offense, punishable by up to 18 months, if the victim is under the age of 13 and is at least 4 years younger than the offender.

Internet Prostitution

Many websites that advertise "personal ads" and "escort services" are used to facilitate prostitution transactions, and both their purveyors and their customers can be charged with criminal solicitation. Internet-facilitated prostitution will generally be charged as a fourth degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in prison, but soliciting a person under the age of 18 is a third degree crime and carries a penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison.

Cyber-Stalking

In order to be convicted of stalking in New Jersey, a person must purposely or knowingly engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear death or bodily injury to herself or a member of her immediate family. A "course of conduct" means that the stalker must convey a threat by any means on at least two separate occasions, and this includes threats made via electronic and online communications, as well as those made by more traditional means.

Stalking is a usually a fourth degree offense, punishable by up to 18 months in prison, but it can be upgraded to a third degree crime under certain circumstances, such as when there's already a restraining order in place, when the offender has already been convicted of stalking the victim, or when the stalker is incarcerated or on parole. Third degree stalking is punishable by heavy fines and up 3 to 5 years imprisonment. Stalking convictions, additionally, are often accompanied by permanent restraining orders.

Invasion of Privacy

A person can be convicted for an invasion of privacy if he places a webcam in someone else's bedroom or bathroom, or in a place like a public restroom or dressing-room stall, if he has no permission to do so and the circumstances are such that a reasonable person wouldn't expect to be observed. The actor must also have as a purpose either sexual gratification or the humiliation of the victim. Recording images in this manner is third degree crime and carries a punishment of 3 to 5 years in prison.

Sex Offender Registration

In addition to prison sentences, being convicted for an internet sex crime often triggers the sex offender registration and tracking requirements of New Jersey's Megan's Law. Registering as a sex offender can be one of the most difficult parts of a sex crimes conviction because it requires offenders to publicly disclose a variety of personal information. These registration provisions can also continue long after a sex offender is released from prison or even permanently, and the stigma of being a registered sex offender can create serious impediments to employment and housing options.

Internet Sex Crimes Defenses

If you've been charged with an internet sex crime, you may be able to defeat the charges by raising various legal defenses. If you were caught with child pornography on your computer, for example, the prosecution still has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the pornographic material depicted actual children and that it wasn't downloaded by someone else without your knowledge. Unlawful entrapment-meaning police conduct that would coerce an otherwise law-abiding individual to commit the crime under similar circumstances-may also be a defense, especially if you were the subject of a sting operation involving undercover law enforcement officers posing as minors. Constitutional violations, such as unreasonable searches and seizures prohibited by the Fourth Amendment, can also result in key evidence such as hard disks and email records being deemed inadmissible.

Contact Palumbo & Renaud

Prosecutors in New Jersey take an aggressive stance against internet sex offenses, and if you've been arrested for an online sex crime, you could be facing serious penalties if you don't have strong legal representation of your own. These cases require complex research and long investigations, and you need an attorney with the experience and skills to mount an effective defense on your behalf.

To meet with me, Anthony N. Palumbo, for a free and confidential consultation, call 1-866-664-8118 or contact me through online form on my website. I know what it takes to successfully fight internet sex crimes charges, and I will vigorously defend your case and help you through this difficult legal process. With more than three decades of experience as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, I can advise you of the penalties you face, possible defenses, and the best course of action to take to avoid or minimize criminal penalties.

Palumbo & Renaud is a New Jersey criminal defense law firm with offices in Cranford, Elizabeth and Newark, and we represent individuals throughout New Jersey, including Essex County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County and Union County. We provide criminal defense services for many other types of criminal charges.