State in the Interest of M.T.S., 129 N.J. 422 (1992)

Case Name: State in the Interest of M.T.S.
Citation: 129 N.J. 422 (1992)

Facts: A 17 year old boy was convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a 15 year old girl. The statute  stated “a person who commits an act of sexual penetration using physical force or coercion is guilty of second-degree sexual assault.” There was discrepancy between the testimonies.

Issue: Whether the element of “physical force” is met simply by an act of non-consensual penetration involving no more force than necessary to accomplish that result.

Defendant’s argument: Physical force means force used to overcome lack of consent. Requires the application of some amount of force in addition to the act of penetration.

State’s argument: Physical force entails any amount of sexual touching brought about involuntarily. Sexual penetration coupled with a lack of consent satisfies the elements of the statute.

Holding: Appellate court reversed and conviction reinstated.

Reasoning: The court discussed that the legislature’s concept of sexual assault was parallel to the law of assault and battery – “any unauthorized touching of another.” In other words, the court reads “nonconsent” into the statute. The defendant has to have consent, “freely given.” The physical force requirement acts only to “qualify the nature and character of the sexual penetration.”

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