Massachusetts prosecutes and punishes rape, date rape, child pornography and computer sex offenses very seriously and in ways that can impact your criminal record and your future permanently. In addition to state prison sentences, Massachusetts laws also require people convicted of sex offenses to register as sex offenders with the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry. A conviction of such an offense can do irreparable damage to your career and your family life.
Massachusetts college and university students also face severe consequences of sex crime accusations at school. Private colleges must provide "Title IX" enforcement of sex crimes in order to receive federal funding. This means that an accused student at a private school has very few rights and can be expelled from the school almost automatically. Students at state schools, colleges and universities have broader rights to defend themselves against rape accusations, but still face a very difficult fight to clear their names and save their academic futures.
Our Massachusetts rape defense law firm has successfully defended people in these accusations repeatedly over the years. Our clients have been found not guilty of these offenses, cases have been dismissed and lives have been restored.What is Statutory Rape or the age of Consent in Massachusetts?
The age of consent in Massachusetts is sixteen. In Massachusetts, statutory rape is clearly defined but is instead called “rape and abuse of a child.” The only age that matters is that of the child regardless of the age of the accused. If a person is fifteen or under, he or she cannot consent to sex under the law.
It is also a “strict liability” crime which means that it is not a defense to be unaware of the other person’s age, even if you were misled. All that is required is intercourse with a person under sixteen, even if the act is “voluntary” by both people. This is because, once again, a person under the sixteen can never legally consent to sexual intercourse, and any person who has sexual intercourse with a person under sixteen, even if the defendant is the same age or younger, has committed the crime of rape of a child.
You read that correctly. When two fifteen year-olds have sex or certain sexual conduct with each other, they have each committed the crime of rape of a child. Whether either or both would ever be prosecuted is of course a different question. This is true for same sex and opposite sex contact.
Punishments get more serious when the age gap between the accused and the victim widens.
Rape of a child is punished more severely if:
- the child is under the age of 12 and the defendant is at least five years older
- the child is between the ages of 12 and 16 and the defendant is at least ten years older, or
- the defendant is a mandated child abuse reporter (such as a doctor, teacher, social worker, or clergy member).
- (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, § 21, ch. 265, §§ 23, 23A.)
When there is not “intercourse,” or any type or penetration, there may still be an “indecent assault and battery upon a child,” although that crime requires that the victim is under fourteen years old.Massachusetts Laws About Rape, Indecent Assault and Battery and Indecent Exposure.
Rape or unwanted sexual contact between adults is equally serious and is also punished severely. Rape convictions will almost certainly lead to state prison sentences and mandatory sex offender registration. Indecent assault and battery convictions involve unwanted touching of another person in an indecent manner and are also punished by jail or prison sentences and mandatory registration. Even offenses such as “open and gross lewdness” or “indecent exposure” can lead to jail time and mandatory reporting. These offenses involve exposing personal parts of the body, such as genitals or even buttocks, even when clothed in see-through or overly revealing clothing.
Once again, however, there is opportunity for false accusations caused by the difficulties of broken relationships or other motives. Our Boston criminal attorney’s office has successfully defended false rape accusations by spouses going through divorces, false rape charges by ex-boyfriends or girlfriends and false rape accusations encouraged by angry or disapproving parents.
Possession of Child Pornography, Dissemination of Obscene Material and Photographing Nude Person or Sexual Parts of the Person.
Massachusetts criminalizes several computer and communications offenses that involve possession or distribution of child pornography or "obscene" material. All of these crimes can lead to prison sentences and carry mandatory sex offender registration.
Crimes involving child pornography are self-explanatory and are obviously very serious and troubling. Other crimes involving "obscene" material are a bit murkier and can often be challenged with motion to dismiss or at trial. Criminal laws must give the general public "notice" that certain conduct is criminal. Massachusetts prosecutions of criminal statutes that are overly vague or broad can be invalid and dismissed.
For example, the definition of "obscenity" in Massachusetts is not clear. Whether something is "obscene" often depends on the circumstances in which the material is possessed or distributed, and to whom. For example, it would seem unfair that sending nude and sexualized photos to a spouse or romantic partner should be a crime. Sending such photos to an unwilling stranger is obviously different.
Massachusetts' legislature originally wrote "obscenity" laws to outlaw retailers of pornography. Our courts have expanded these laws to fit into the computer age and the prevalence of smartphones and iPhones. It is unclear just what types of material, and under what circumstances, constitute "obscenity" if the material is transferred among adults using text messaging or other person-to-person communications.
Massachusetts has also enacted a "peeping tom" statute. This law criminalizes, as it should, the photographing, videotaping or surveillance of a nude or partially nude person, or of the private body parts of a person. To be found guilty, the accused must do this without the knowledge or consent of the other person.
A second part of this Massachusetts law makes it a crime to distribute images or videos that the accused knows were taken without the knowledge or consent of the person being photographed, whether the accused took the photos and videos or not. The law has stricter punishment if the person depicted is a child. In 2014, the Massachusetts legislature expanded the "peeping tom" law to include photographing "body parts" of an unsuspecting person after incidents of unknowing photography on public transportation like subways and public buses.
The most relevant obscenity and child pornography statutes in Massachusetts are:
- MGL c.272, s.28 Possession or dissemination of matter harmful to minors. As amended after American Booksellers injunction
- MGL c.272, s.28C Obscene books
- MGL c.272, s.29 Possession or dissemination of obscene matter
- MGL c.272, s.29A Posing a child in a state of nudity
- MGL c.272, s.29B Dissemination of child pornography
- MGL c.272, s.29C Possession of child pornography
- MGL 272, s.105 Photographing, videotaping or electronically surveilling partially nude or nude person or the sexual or other intimate parts of a person around the person's clothing.
We’ve seen the devastation a false accusation of a sex crime can cause the accused, their families, friends, careers and futures. However, these accusations can be defended and you can be vindicated with assistance of an attorney with the right kind of experience, sensitivity and courtroom skill. Our Boston criminal defense attorney’s office has expertise in all of the issues that may arise in these cases, from disputing scientific evidence to investigating and discovering weaknesses in an accuser’s credibility.
Our Boston criminal defense attorney’s office has successfully defended clients before juries in very serious trials, including life felony trials, charging several sex offenses, including aggravated rape, rape of a child, indecent assault and battery and date rape. Our clients have been found not guilty in every sexual offense accusation we have ever tried before a jury. That is a 100 percent winning record in sex crime cases over twenty years.
If you have been charged with sexual assault, or any sex crime in Massachusetts, you may be facing severe potential penalties and other consequences in the event you are found guilty. Many sex offenses carry with them the potential for lengthy jail sentences and for registration onto a public sex offender registry. Even more minor sex crimes, such as indecent exposure, can lead to a jail sentence, derail your future and require publication on the sex offender registry.
These crimes are devastating to victims and should be punished severely. However, the cultural stigma attached do these crimes also creates opportunity for false accusations of rape or sexual assault. If you have been falsely accused of a sex crime, you need a fearless, talented and dedicated attorney.
Contact Serpa Law Office immediately if you have been falsely accused of rape or indecent assault and battery or any sex crime.