In New Jersey, a person may not only be charged for the commission of a sex crime, but also for attempting to commit a sex crime. Mere discussions or speculation regarding criminal acts are often insufficient to form the basis of a criminal charge, however, and there are certain elements the State must meet to convict a person of an attempt offense. Recently, a New Jersey appellate court discussed the criminal attempt statute in a case in which the defendant appealed his attempted sex crime convictions. If you are accused of attempting to commit a sex crime, it is critical to engage an assertive New Jersey sex crime defense attorney to assist you in fighting to protect your rights.

Factual History

It is reported that the defendant, who was a 62-year-old man, responded to an ad on a classified website. The ad was placed by a detective purporting to be a 14-year-old girl. Through the course of correspondence over several months, the “girl” advised the defendant that she was 14 and sent him a picture of herself that had been digitally altered so that she looked like a child. The conversations between the defendant and the girl became sexual in nature, and the defendant described the acts he would like to engage in with the girl. They ultimately agreed to meet at a fast-food restaurant so that the defendant could take the girl back to his house.

Allegedly, when the defendant arrived at the restaurant, he was arrested, and in his car, the police found condoms and whipped cream vodka that the girl requested the defendant purchase. He was charged with attempted sexual assault, luring a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of attempting to endanger the welfare of a child. He was convicted of four of the counts, after which he appealed, arguing that improper jury instructions allowed him to be convicted of the attempt crimes based on his mental state.

Elements of an Attempted Sex Crime

The New Jersey criminal attempt statute states that a person is guilty of an attempt to commit a crime if, while acting with the culpability required to commit a crime, the person purposely undertakes conduct that would be considered a crime if the circumstances were what a reasonable person would believe them to be, or intentionally does anything that constitutes a substantial step in the conduct planned to result in the commission of a crime. In other words, a person may be convicted of an attempted crime if a criminal act would be complete if not for the defendant’s mistaken belief regarding the circumstances, or if the defendant takes affirmative acts towards committing a crime.

In the subject case, the appellate court noted that the trial court erred in advising the jury of multiple acts that could be considered an attempt when only the substantial step type of attempt applied. The appellate court found this error to be harmless, however, given the strength of the State’s case. As such, the appellate court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Confer with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

While a person can be charged with attempting to commit a sex crime even if he or she did not engage in a criminal act, the State must nonetheless produce substantial evidence to obtain a conviction. If you are charged with committing or attempting to commit a sex crime, the experienced New Jersey sex crime defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can advise you of your available defenses and set forth compelling arguments on your behalf. You can reach us through our form online or at 877-450-8301 to set up a meeting.