Statutory Rape in Massachusetts
Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.) Chapter 265 Section 23, statutory rape occurs when an individual unlawfully has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse, and abuses a minor under the age of 16. Throughout the United States, statutory rape laws are designed to protect the innocence of minor children who are unable to legally consent to engage in sexual intercourse. In Massachusetts, the law mandates that a child under the age of 16 is incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse even when the child willingly engages in the act.
While a large majority of states in this country have created exceptions to statutory rape laws known as “Romeo and Juliet laws” that offer protections for teenagers who willingly engage in sexual intercourse, Massachusetts is not one of them. With the potential for serious penalties and lifelong consequences, you need to contact an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney immediately to schedule a consultation if you or a child of yours is facing statutory rape charges.
Penalties for Statutory Rape in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, statutory rape is a felony punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years in state prison or house of correction. Charge of statutory rape cannot be continued without a finding (CWOF) or filed. See M.G.L. c. 265 §23. A conviction for statutory rape may also result in court-ordered monitoring and lifelong registration as a sex offender with the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB).
In addition to the potential for harsh penalties, the stigma of a felony conviction involving charges of statutory rape carries a negative stigma and can severely impact one’s personal life, including educational and career opportunities.
Proving Statutory Rape in Massachusetts
In a prosecution for charges of statutory rape in Massachusetts, the government must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant engaged in unlawful natural or unnatural sexual intercourse with the victim; and
- The victim was under the age of 16 at the time of the sexual intercourse.
Although the language in M.G.L. c. 265 §23 references “abuse of a child” in addition to sexual intercourse, the law does not require a separate finding of abuse, apart from the sexual intercourse, to support a conviction for statutory rape.
What is Not a Defense to Statutory Rape?
While there may be a number of available defenses to charges of statutory rape depending on the evidence and circumstances, the following are NOT available defenses to statutory rape in Massachusetts:
- You did not know the minor’s age: In many cases, ignorance is not a defense to the law and that holds true for statutory rape. A defendant can still be convicted of statutory rape even if they believed the alleged victim was 16+ years old or the alleged victim lied about their age.
- The minor consented to the act: Consent is not an aspect of statutory rape cases because under the law, individuals under the age of 16 do not have the capacity to consent to sexual intercourse. A person under the age of 16 cannot legally consent.
- You are a teenager: Many states have Romeo and Juliet laws that protect, or minimize the punishment, for young persons close in age (e.g., teenagers; high school boyfriend and girlfriend) who willingly engage in sexual intercourse and one or both may be under the age of 16. Unfortunately, Massachusetts is not one of them.
When are Statutory Rape Charges Brought?
While statutory rape charges are not commonly brought in Massachusetts, they are permissible in any situation where a person under the age of 16 engages in sexual intercourse regardless of the other individual’s age. However, certain situations and relationships are more likely to result in statutory rape charges in Massachusetts, including the following:
- Upset parents reporting sex to police: the police may not pursue a case involving a 16-year-old boy and his 15-year-old girlfriend. However, charges are more likely in situations where parents are shocked to learn their teenage child is having sex and report it to police.
- Cases involving younger minors: even in situations where both individuals are under the age of 16, if the female is younger and/or well-below the age of 16, charges are more likely to be brought.
- Cases involving a significant age difference: The age difference between the victim and the alleged offender is a significant factor in whether charges are brought. For example, a relationship between a 20-year old male and 15-year old female is more likely to result in statutory rape charges as compared to a relationship between a 16-year old male and 15-year old female who go to high school together and are boyfriend and girlfriend.
While both males and females can be charged with stautory rape in Massachusetts, males are much more likely than females to be charged with statutory rape.
Call Our Massachusetts Criminal Defense Law Firm Today
Founder / Lead Attorney Anthony R. Riccio has extensive experience handling sexual assault cases in Massachusetts as a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor. Our firm understands how the government prosecutes sexual assault cases and aggressively defends our clients against such serious charges. If you or someone you love has been charged with statutory rape, call our Massachusetts criminal defense law firm at (508) 226-4500 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.