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Possible defenses to NJ lewdness charges


The freedom of expression and the ability to do as one pleases without interference from government are rights enjoyed by residents of New Jersey and other communities throughout the United States. These rights are not, however, without limitation. Society prohibits people from engaging in acts of indecency such as lewdness that might be observed by other people.

Lewdness in New Jersey occurs when a person performs an act that is offensive and flagrantly lewd under circumstances that the person committing the act either knew or should have known would be observed by another person. The law requires that the person observing the offending act did so without consenting to it, and it must be proven that the observer was alarmed or offended by it.

Although lewdness is classified as a disorderly persons offense by the statute, a person may be charged with a more serious criminal charge. It is a crime to commit a lewd act that involves exposing intimate parts of the body to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of the person charged or of another individual if it is done so that it is observed by a child who is less than 13 years of age or by a person suffering from a mental disease or defect that makes the person unable to understand the nature of the act being observed.

An attorney reviewing the facts of a particular case might take note of a defense to the charge. For example, the statute requires that the person charged with the more serious crime of lewdness must be at least four years older than the child who observed the acts. Depending upon the facts of the case, a possible defense might be that the person performing the act was not aware that anyone was observing it.

Source: New Jersey Permanent Statutes Database , "2C:14-4. Lewdness.", November 14, 2014

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