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In the interest of MTS

609 A.2d 1266 (N.J. 1992)

Tags:ย Criminal law, Rape

tl;dr: Having sex with someone who is asleep is forceful.

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This New Jersey legal case involves the question of whether non-consensual penetration constitutes sexual assault if it involves no more force than necessary to accomplish the act. The case involves an instance of "acquaintance rape" where a 17-year-old boy engaged in consensual kissing and heavy petting with a 15-year-old girl and then engaged in non-consensual sexual penetration without using any unusual or extra force or threats. The trial court found the boy delinquent for committing sexual assault, but the Appellate Division reversed the decision. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

The case centers around the interpretation of the term "physical force" in the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, which is unclear, as lower courts have conflicting decisions on whether sexual penetration without consent is enough to establish physical force. The State and Public Defender disagree on the definition of "physical force" in the sexual assault statute. The court must interpret the statute's underlying intent through legislative history and context.

Traditional rape law required proof of both force and non-consent, with the burden of proof on the victim. Pre-reform rape law in New Jersey required victims to show genuine and active resistance to establish non-consent, putting the burden on them to fight back. This had a negative impact and placed the victim on trial. Reformers challenged the assumption that women would falsely claim rape to protect their virtue and aimed to bring legal standards for rape cases in line with those used in other violent crimes by normalizing requirements for evidence.

The lower court's interpretation of the law was flawed, as the absence of force beyond that involved in sexual penetration precluded a finding of second-degree sexual assault.

Historically, rape law focused on the victim's behavior and implied consent in marriage. Reformers sought to redefine rape as an assaultive crime, with the burden of showing non-consent not falling on the victim. New Jersey's 1978 Code of Criminal Justice treats rape as a violent crime, eliminates the spousal exception, and renders the crime gender-neutral. The definition of "force" or "coercion" is left to the courts, but the focus is on the defendant's assaultive conduct, not the victim's behavior.

The law of sexual assault protects an individual's right to control who may touch their body and under what circumstances. The Legislature reformed the rape laws to reflect an emerging awareness that the definition of rape should correspond fully with the experiences and perspectives of rape victims. Non-consensual penetration without additional physical force or coercion is not criminalized under the sexual assault statute, but the force of penetration may be sufficient if used to overcome the victim's expressed desire to limit the encounter.

The factfinder must determine if the defendant reasonably believed that the alleged victim had given affirmative permission for the act of sexual penetration. The absence of affirmative and freely-given permission is required for the element of physical force in sexual assault. The trial court found that the victim did not express consent to intercourse, and this decision is supported by the record. The judgment of the Appellate Division is reversed, and the disposition of juvenile delinquency for the commission of second-degree sexual assault is reinstated.

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IRACIssue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion

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Facts & Holding

Facts:CG and MTS lived in the same home. MTS came...

Holding:The court reverses the appeals court, holding that having sex...

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In the interest of MTS

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