Luring (Part 1)

by | Jan 7, 2024 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

On December 7, 2023, a three-judge appellate panel decided the Somerset County case of State v. Jose Martinez-Mejia. The principal issue under N.J.S.A. 2C:13-6 concerned whether a luring offense could be committed completely within the victim’s home.

Judge Chase wrote for the Appellate Division in relevant part: One must look at the wording of the entire phrase in its context, which prohibits to “lure or entice,” and the entire dictionary definition of both words to determine the statute’s ordinary meaning. Defendant’s argument only focuses on the dictionary definition of “lure” to conclude that “to lead someone into a dangerous or difficult situation that they otherwise would not have entered” means to go to another location. The definition of “lure” includes “to lead astray from one’s true course.” Merriam-Webster’s College Dictionary, (11th ed. 2020). And “entice” is defined as “to lure or induce; esp., to wrongfully solicit (a person) to do something.” Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). The prohibited conduct is thus defined by its aim to lead someone into a dangerous or difficult situation that they otherwise would not have entered. The course of action Angela was lured into was staying alone, isolated, and vulnerable to meet an adult male for an illegal sexual encounter.

Here, the ordinary meaning of the phrase “to meet or appear at any other place” also leads to the conclusion defendant engaged in prohibited conduct when he enticed Angela to stay at her home and not go out with her friends. There is no reason to construe the phrase of “any other place” as containing an unwritten exception for places where the child is already located. Here, that location is a place “other” than where the defendant was when he communicated with the child. Defendant went through great pains to ensure Angela would be alone before telling her he was coming over. Indeed, by requesting the child to stay at her home, the abuse is all the easier to commit; since it lulls the child into a false sense of security; creating the dangerous circumstance of isolation and vulnerability that this statute is meant to punish. Neither the dictionary definitions nor the language of the statute expresses a requirement of the victim going to a different place.

The ”or entice” language seems to be enough to undermine the defendant’s argument that asportation is required. Enticing a child to remain in a location that would be dangerous is consistent with the statute’s purpose.