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Few crimes conjure up so much controversy and emotion as that of rape. Rape is a serious crime in the state of Massachusetts and one that presents unique challenges to defend against. A rape conviction can have lifelong consequences, including decades of imprisonment, a weighty criminal record, a lifetime of registering as a sex offender, and ever increasing punishments for subsequent rape convictions. Rape is not a crime to be taken lightly—but, with an experienced rape defense attorney, a rape charge does not have to equal a rape conviction.The Crime of Rape Explained
The crime of rape is defined in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 22(b). There are three elements necessary to uphold a rape conviction in Massachusetts—1) any object must penetrate any orifice; 2) the defendant uses force or threat of force against the victim; 3) the intercourse must be against the will of the victim.
Rape can generally be broken down into one of two categories—stranger rape and date rape. Stranger rape, which is when an unknown attacker rapes the victim, accounts for about 25% of reported rapes. Date rape occurs when the victim know the attacker, and accounts for the remaining 75% of cases.
The crime of rape is punished severely in Massachusetts. A first time rape offender faces up to twenty years in prison, along with the penalties associated with all sex crimes such as registration as a sex offender. If a weapon is used in commission of the offense, you will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of ten years imprisonment. A second rape conviction can carry a life sentence.Rape and Wrongful Convictions
One frightening fact about rape cases is that wrongful rape convictions are not at all uncommon. A 2005 study conducted by a professor from the University of Michigan Law School found that over 121 prisoners convicted of rape between 1989 and 2003 had been exonerated thanks to DNA evidence. Wrongful rape convictions are alarming common in Massachusetts in particular- with over 22 innocent men freed within the last twenty years in our state alone. In fact, Suffolk County is reported to have the second largest number of wrongful convictions in the nation.
One particular case illustrates the dangers of wrongful rape convictions in Massachusetts and highlights the crucial importance of retaining a skilled criminal defense attorney with experience defending against rape charges.
After serving 19 years and two months in prison for two counts of rape and one of sexual assault, the defendant walked free from the Middlesex County Superior—exonerated by DNA evidence that proved he was in fact innocent. At the time of his conviction, the evidence against him had seemed compelling. The three rape/assault victims identified the accused twice--- first from photo arrays, then from live lineups. Further, the red sweatshirt the defendant was arrested in matched the description of the attacker’s attire given by one of the victims. Finally, an army jacket and knife was recovered from the defendant’s vehicle which again matched a victim’s description.
The accused, who protested his innocence from the start and had a solid alibi, fought for years to have his case reviewed. He, with the help of the Innocence Project, was eventually able to persuade the court to order DNA testing of the evidence. Finding the evidence was yet another challenge for attorneys at the Innocence Project, but through much persistence, DNA evidence was found in each of the three cases. The results were exactly what the defendant had been shouting all along-- none of the DNA evidence matched his DNA. It additionally revealed that the three women were raped by different men. This person is now free, but will never get back that 19 years he spent in prison for the crimes he did not commit.
This horrifying ordeal brings to light the crucial need to retain the assistance of an aggressive, experienced rape defense attorney if you are charged with the crime of rape in Massachusetts. A skilled defense attorney may have changed the outcome of this man’s case by aggressively challenging the prosecution’s case with some of the following actions: seeking to exclude the victim’s suggestive identifications; pointedly cross-examining the victims as to their identifications and descriptions of the evidence allegedly tying him to the scene; and revealing any suggestion made by police during the photo arrays and live line ups. Today, of course, an experience rape defense attorney would immediately request DNA testing of any relevant evidence.Three Steps You Should Take if You are Charged With Rape
The following is a list of the most vital three steps you should take if you have been charged or believe you will be charged with the serious crime of rape:
- Do not talk to the police—the police have one goal in mind in speaking with you: gathering evidence to use against you. Do not speak to the police without first consulting with your experienced rape defense attorney, who will likely only give you the same advice. Rape cases often involve the word of the victim against that of the defendant, particularly in the case of date rape. Any statements you make to the police will later be admissible against you. Do not harm your case by speaking with the police. If the police further attempt to engage you, merely state that you want to speak with your attorney and all questioning must stop.
- Do not consent to any searches—this includes searches of your person and your property. The police will seek to search your property and your person for any evidence that may connect you to the alleged rape. Do not consent to such searches. Consult immediately with a knowledgeable defense attorney who can help protect your vital Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
- Retain the assistance of an experienced rape defense attorney—this step is the most crucial. Obtaining a skilled criminal defense attorney who will aggressively defend against your rape charge is your best chance at avoiding a conviction and preventing a lifetime of harsh consequences. The sooner you consult with a defense attorney, the sooner they can begin mounting your defense.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman has successfully defended countless individuals in the Boston area charged with the serious crime of rape. We are a team of savvy, aggressive rape defense attorneys who will tirelessly fight to see your innocence maintained. Call our office today at (617) 263-6800 to schedule your free consultation.
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