State in the Interest of M.T.S.
129 N.J. 422, 609 A.2d 1266 (1992)

  • M.T.S. (17 years old) lived in a house with C.G (15 years old), C.G.’s mother, and several other people. Although there were differences in testimony, basically M.T.S. entered C.G.’s room and the pair started kissing. It went further than C.G. liked. She told M.T.S. to stop and he left.
    • There were no allegations that M.T.S. used and force or threat of force.
  • C.G. filed a police complaint that she had been raped. M.T.S. was arrested.
  • The Trial Court found M.T.S. guilty of sexual assault.
    • The Trial Court found that C.G. had not consented to the sexual act, although she had consented to the making out.
  • The Appellate Court overturned the conviction. The prosecutor appealed.
    • The Appellate Court looked to New Jersey law and found that the sexual assault Statute (N.J.S.A.:2C:14-2c(1)) says, “An actor is guilty of sexual assault if…the actor uses physical force or coercion…”
    • The Court found that M.T.S. did not use any force or coercion, therefore the prosecutor failed to prove an element of the crime.
  • The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed and upheld the conviction.
    • The New Jersey Supreme Court found that any sexual act performed by the defendant without the express permission of the victim meets the definition of physical force.
    • The Court compared the Statute to that of battery. Any unauthorized touching of another person is battery, even if the defendant didn’t hurt the victim. Similarly, any sexual act is sexual assault even if there was no force.
    • The Court also suggested that an opposite finding would be inconsistent with modern principles of personal autonomy and expectation of privacy.
  • If M.T.S. hadn’t been found guilty of sexual assault, he wouldn’t have been guilty of anything at all under New Jersey law. Is it good public policy to allow people to perform a sexual act on someone without their permission, as long as they don’t threaten them?
    • Some States have a separate category of sexual assault for situations where there was no force used.