Defending those Accused of Statutory Rape
Statutory rape is defined by G.L. c. 265, §23 as unlawful sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual with a child under the age of sixteen. More specifically, to convict a defendant of statutory rape in Massachusetts, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant engaged in sexual intercourse or unnatural intercourse with the alleged victim; and,
The alleged victim had not yet reached the age of sixteen years old.
Importantly, because the prosecutor need not prove that the defendant employed force or that the alleged victim did not consent to the encounter these cases present unique challenges to criminal defense lawyers.
Defenses to Statutory Rape Charge
Because statutory rape is classified as a “strict liability” crime in Massachusetts, many of the common defenses a defendant may raise to a criminal charge are unavailable. For example, that the defendant was mistaken as to the child’s age is no defense to the charge, even where the child appears to be over the age of sixteen or informs the defendant she is sixteen years of age or older. Moreover, that a child “consented” is not a valid defense since a child, as a matter of law, is incapable of consenting. The only legally valid defense to a charge of statutory rape is the defendant’s denial that he had intercourse of any kind with the alleged victim. Where the alleged victim is prepared to testify against the defendant, the criminal defense lawyer must be fully prepared to discredit her with a thorough, well-structured and effective cross-examination.
Defending an individual accused of any serious sex offense is no small task. Prosecutors assigned to the Sexual Assault Units of their respective District Attorney’s Offices prosecute only sex crimes, and their experience in trying these cases is exceeded only by their determination. If you are charged with a sex offense, such as statutory rape, you no doubt recognize that you are confronted with an enormous challenge. Choosing the right lawyer to represent you is your most important decision. Select a a lawyer who will meet with you, patiently listen to your side of this ordeal, explain the process to you, thoroughly investigate and analyze the allegations and the alleged victim, and formulate a strategy to navigate you to safety.
Penalties for Statutory Rape
A conviction for statutory rape is punishable by life imprisonment or by any term of years. Unlike the crime of forceable rape of a child, statutory rape is not subject to a mandatory minimum sentence. Where, however, the defendant is convicted of a second or subsequent offense, he will be sentenced to a term of not less than five years in state prison.
Defending a person accused of a serious sex crime is no small task. The assistant district attorneys assigned to the Sexual Assault Units of their respective offices prosecute only sex crimes, and their experience in trying these cases is exceeded only by their single-mindedness. With so much at stake, choosing the right lawyer to represent you is critical – a lawyer who will take the time to sit down with you and patiently listen to your side of this ordeal, explain the judicial process, thoroughly investigate and analyze the case against you, and formulate a strategy to navigate you to safety.