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Massachusetts G.L. c. 265, § 23: Rape of a Child

Massachusetts General Laws chapter 265, section 23 governs the crime of rape of a child. It provides as follows:

Whoever unlawfully has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse, and abuses a child under 16 years of age, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years or, except as otherwise provided, for any term in a jail or house of correction. A prosecution commenced under this section shall neither be continued without a finding nor placed on file.

Rape has been defined as involving any unconsented penetration of any orifice of the body. Rape involves: penetration of a genital opening; penetration of an anal opening; or penetration of some other opening, such as a mouth. Unnatural sexual intercourse under G.L.c. 265, §23 includes anal intercourse and other intrusions of a part of a person’s body or other object into the anal or oral opening of another person’s body. In order to convict a defendant of statutory rape, then, the prosecution must prove penetration beyond a reasonable doubt.

In addition to proving sexual or unnatural intercourse beyond a reasonable doubt, the government must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged victim was under the age of sixteen. It is not a defense that one mistakenly and reasonably believed that the alleged victim was 16 or older. In other words, one can still be convicted of this offense even if the alleged victim lied about his or her age and appeared to be 16 or older. Furthermore, Massachusetts does not have “Romeo and Juliet laws,” though many other states do. This means that a defendant can still be convicted of statutory rape if the defendant is a teenager.

Consent is not a defense to statutory rape. Under Massachusetts law, persons under the age of 16 are not capable of giving consent. The government does not have to proof lack of consent in order to convict a defendant of statutory rape. Force is not a necessary element of statutory rape.

Examples: G.L. c. 265 Section 23

A common example of a statutory rape scenario involves an otherwise consensual relationship between one younger party and one slightly older party, with the criminal charges arising after a parent discovers the relationship, becomes concerned, and reports it to authorities. In some Massachusetts cases, defendants have been convicted of statutory rape on relatively weak evidence. For example, in one case, evidence was held to be sufficient to support a statutory rape convictions where: the defendant was the only adult who had access to the alleged victim during the relevant time frame and the defendant had expressed displeasure with the child’s presence in his home. In another case, evidence was held to be sufficient to support a conviction even where the victim testified that it was “possible” that she had been 16 at the time of the offense.

Related Offenses

Offenses that are similar or related to statutory, G.L. c. 265, section 23 include:

  • Indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, G.L. c. 265, section 13B
  • Rape, G.L.c. 265, section 22
  • Forcible rape of child, G.L.c. 265, section 22A
Defenses to Statutory Rape Charges

Often there is no physical evidence or witnesses other than the complainant in cases involving charges of statutory rape. Thus, defense strategies in statutory rape cases often involve the credibility of the complainant. An experienced criminal attorney will effectively assess the facts of your case and build the strongest defense possible. Attorney Stephen Neyman will start exploring and building your defense from the moment you retain him.

Penalties for Statutory Rape in Massachusetts

Statutory rape is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life or any term of years or for any term in jail or the house of correction. Punishments for statutory rape vary greatly and are based on the discretion of the judge. Judges tend to consider factors such as the age gap and power differential between the parties. For instance, a teacher having a sexual relationship with a student may be punished more harshly than a teenager having a sexual relationship with a younger teenager. However, even among similarly situated defendants with similar criminal histories, sentencing disparities do result.

Boston Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer 617 263 6800

If you or someone you know has been charged with statutory rape in Massachusetts, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. at 617 263 6800 or send an email or message through this website. Attorney Stephen Neyman has more than 20 years of experience in criminal defense practice. He is a dedicated criminal lawyer who approaches every case with an aggressive and enthusiastic attitude.

If you have been accused of statutory rape in Massachusetts, the stakes are high, and it is necessary to retain an experienced lawyer. Attorney Neyman has the expertise to provide the best defense possible in your case. Once you speak with Attorney Neyman, you will be able to rest assured that you have a dedicated advocate fighting for you and your future.

Clients accused of statutory rape come from all walks of life. Often, these clients are relatively young people themselves. Their personal, professional, and educational opportunities hang in the balance. Attorney Neyman is mindful of this, and he makes every effort to provide peace of mind to his clients. Call his office today. Consultations are free and confidential.

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