According to a new State Superior Court ruling in Bergen County, New Jersey, certain crimes that occur outside of New Jersey, but related to conduct originating in the state, are punishable under New Jersey law. The opinion states that New Jersey citizens who commit sex crimes abroad against minors who are under their control may be charged and tried in the state. The penalties are the same for crimes actually committed in New Jersey, including prison sentences and sex offender registration under the state’s requirements for Megan’s Law.
Crimes Committed Abroad
During a Paramus Catholic High School trip to Werl, Germany in 2011, several students claimed they had sex with their adult chaperones. After one student told a teacher about her sexual encounter on the trip, the teacher reported the act to child protection authorities. The two accused chaperones, who were both school employees at the time, were later arrested and charged with 25 counts of sexual assault and child endangerment.
Punishable in NJ
Although the alleged sex crimes were perpetrated abroad in Germany, State Superior Court Judge James Guida determined that the chaperones had exercised control over the minors on the trip while in New Jersey. Since their supervisory roles as chaperones began in New Jersey, Judge Guida indicated this created an anchor “to which jurisdiction in this state is tethered.” The judge’s opinion stressed the limited scope of his decision around situations where defendants committed sexual crimes while functioning as supervisors over minors.
The case against the chaperones, which Judge Guida is allowing to proceed to a jury trial, carries charges that are punishable under New Jersey law. The bulk of the 25 counts of sexual assault and child endangerment carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, in addition to lifelong parole. Because of the sexual nature of the crimes against minors, the defendants, if convicted, will also have to maintain sex offender registration and abide by Megan’s Law requirements – however, their attorneys plan to appeal the judge’s determination.
According to Judge Guida’s ruling, the main focus of this case and allowing it to proceed in New Jersey is “the safety and protection of its children.” Therefore the state has a substantial interest in allowing the application of New Jersey law to sexual crimes committed against youth abroad and in its outcome. While the case has yet to be tried by a jury, this initial ruling could impact future defendants of sexual crimes not committed in the state of New Jersey by forcing them to submit to the laws of an unknown jurisdiction.
If you were recently charged with sexual assault or another type of sex crime in New Jersey, contact a New Jersey criminal defense attorney right away. A criminal lawyer with experience in defending people against sex crime charges in New Jersey can help you navigate the state’s criminal law system and advocate for your best interests.