In Plymouth County Massachusetts, a 23-year-old man was arrested and charged on eight counts of statutory rape of a child for his involvement with two girls under the age of 16. The man allegedly contacted the minors through Facebook which led to in-person meetings. He posted bail while awaiting trial and is prohibited from having contact with anyone under the age of 18 and cannot have access to computers while awaiting trial. If convicted, this man faces a life sentence for his involvement with the young girls.
If you have been accused of statutory rape in the State of Massachusetts, you are likely frightened, confused, and stressed. You probably have many questions. The following is a list of frequently asked questions concerning the crime of statutory rape, designed to provide you with some preliminary information about the crime you face:
1. What is Statutory Rape?
The crime of statutory rape is defined by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 23. Statutory rape is sexual intercourse, or so-called unnatural sexual intercourse, with a child under the age of sixteen. To convict a defendant of statutory rape in Massachusetts, the prosecutor must prove the following element:
- The defendant had sexual intercourse or unnatural intercourse with the alleged victim. “Sexual intercourse” as defined by the statute is broader than merely intercourse—it is essentially defined as any sort of penetration of the sex organ or anal opening. “Unnatural sexual intercourse” includes oral and anal intercourse, such as fellatio.
- The alleged victim was under sixteen years of age.
2. What is the Punishment for Statutory Rape?
The punishment for statutory rape in Massachusetts is both severe and broad. A defendant convicted of statutory rape in our state faces a sentence of life imprisonment or of any term of years. This means that even a first time offender could be sentenced to life imprisonment following a statutory rape conviction. Even if sentenced to a lighter term of years, a defendant convicted of statutory rape will face lifelong consequences from the conviction. In addition to having a felony criminal record, statutory rape convictions require registration as a sex offender, and may involve restrictions on your liberty such as refraining from using computers while on probation, being prevented from living too close to schools or parks, and required to stay away from minors.
3. I Didn't Know the Minor was Under the Age of 16; can I Still be Prosecuted?
Yes. In the state of Massachusetts, if you were under the mistaken belief the minor was over the age of 16—over even if the minor life and told you he or she was over 16—you will still be guilty of statutory rape. Mistake or ignorance as to the minor’s age is not a defense to statutory rape.
4. The Minor Consented to the Sexual Intercourse; can I Still be Prosecuted?
Yes. Sixteen is the age of consent in Massachusetts. Therefore, if a person is under 16, under the law that person is not capable of giving consent. Even if the minor expresses consent, engages in the sexual act, or is someone you had a relationship with, you will still be guilty of statutory rape.
5. I'm Also a Teenager; can I Still be Convicted?
Yes. While many states have so-called Romeo and Juliet laws which provide exceptions to statutory rape where the defendant was also a minor, Massachusetts is not one of them. Massachusetts does not provide exceptions for teenage love. Therefore, a 16 year old dating a 15 year old can be charged and convicted of statutory rape despite the minor age gap.
6. I do not Have a Criminal Record; Will I Really be Sent to Prison After a Statutory Rape Conviction?
Maybe. Statutory rape is very broadly punished, leaving the judge with much discretion. In theory, you could be sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime of statutory rape even if you are a first time offender with no criminal record. The severity of your sentence will likely depend in part on the circumstances of the underlying criminal act. In general, those in a position of authority such as teachers, doctors, or even parents, will be punished more severely. Even among this group, there is great disparity among statutory rape sentences.
Compare these two high profile Massachusetts statutory rape cases: Jane Doe, a pseudonym, a 24-year-old former teacher, made headline news when she ran away with a 15-year-old male student for over a week. Upon their return, Doe was charged with child endangerment and later statutory rape. She pled guilty to the charges and the prosecutor requested she be sentenced to a term of 3 to 5 years imprisonment. The former student pled for leniency. Doe was initially sentenced to mere probation, but after violating an order to not contact her former student, the court ordered her to jail for 18 months. She may face the initial suggested jail term of 3 to 5 years.
In contrast, a Northbridge couple, Lisa Dunn and James Dunn, also pseudonyms, were sentenced to 22 and 20 years imprisonment, respectively, for the statutory rape of their two adopted children. The couple faced multiple counts of statutory rape and the victims gave compelling statements asking for harsh punishment of their adopted parents.
These two cases illustrate the wide range of sentencing for the crime of statutory rape. The existence of aggravating factors, such as a large age gap between the defendant and minor, and the heinous nature of the act will greatly increase the potential for serious prison time.The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman can Help
If you have been accused of statutory rape, your life and your future depends upon retaining the best criminal defense attorney available. The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman has over twenty years experience defending individuals charged with statutory rape. Our team of highly trained Massachusetts statutory rape attorneys will fight tirelessly to see you avoid conviction. Statutory rape is a serious crime with serious consequences. Given the few defenses and the broad sentencing range, it is imperative that you consult with a knowledgeable defense attorney who will fight to protect your legal rights. Call Stephen Neyman today at (617) 263-6800 to schedule your initial consultation.
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