Can NJ prosecute for acts of sexual assault occurring in another country?

Maynard Law Office, LLC posted in Sex Crimes on Monday, September 29, 2014.

Over one week ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard arguments in two sexual assault cases in which the illegal conduct occurred overseas. In these cases, State v. Sumulikoski and State v. Sopel, Sumulikosti and Sopel, both former employees of Paramus Catholic High School, are accused of sexually assaulting three students while acting as chaperones on a school trip to Germany. The Court has been asked to determine whether the defendants can be prosecuted in the State of New Jersey when the allegedly illegal conduct was committed in Germany. Does the State of New Jersey has the jurisdiction to prosecute criminal conduct that occurs outside of the State?

Generally, the State of New Jersey cannot prosecute a criminal case that occurred in another state. For example, if a New Jersey resident commits an act of endangering the welfare of a child in Pennsylvania, New Jersey lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute. The offender could be charged with a crime in the State of Pennsylvania. The reverse is also true. If an individual from Pennsylvania travels to New Jersey and commits an act of criminal sexual contact, the Pennsylvania resident may be charged NJ.

In the cases at bar, the State argues that the criminal conduct began in New Jersey when Sumulokoski and Sopel volunteered to be chaperones for the school trip. (It is a crime to commit a sexual act with a minor under the age of 18, if the actor maintains a supervisory or disciplinary role over the minor.) The criminal defense counters that these two men did not have the intent to commit acts of sexual assault at the time they volunteers, and if any illegal acts were committed in Germany, it is within Germany’s jurisdiction to prosecute.

If you are in legal trouble, contact our experienced attorneys.

Source: “N.J. Justices Hear German School Trip Sex Case,” by Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal, September 25, 2014.

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