What Does “Strict Liability” Mean for Statutory Rape Cases in Massachusetts?

Statutory rape carries strict penalties in Massachusetts, and it is considered a strict liability offense. As a result, there are fewer defense options easily available as opposed to other sex-related crimes. In today’s blog, we will discuss what “strict liability” in statutory rape cases mean, how it can affect the methods of defense you might choose to pursue, and why it will be advisable to have an experienced attorney on your side.

Elements of a Statutory Rape Charge

In many states, statutory rape (intercourse between a teenager and an older person) is distinct from child rape (intercourse with a younger child). In Massachusetts, however, both crimes are termed child rape. In other words, a person who has any form of sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16 commits the crime of rape of a child.

Strict Liability

In Massachusetts, statutory rape is considered a strict liability crime, meaning that even if the alleged victim told the defendant that they were above 16 years old, the defendant could still be charged with statutory rape because the victim was actually under the age of consent.

There are few defenses that are easily available in a statutory rape case as a result. While many states have “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions that address younger couples engaging in consensual sexual activity with others who are close to their own age, Massachusetts has no such Romeo and Juliet exception. Underage children in Massachusetts can face charges for having sex even with those around their age, and adults who have sex with underage children can be charged with aggravated child rape.

Note that there also is no marital exception in Massachusetts. Marriage is another common defense in other states to a charge of statutory rape between a defendant and an underage person they are married to, but Massachusetts does not accept this argument.

Due to the strict liability of statutory rape in the state, then, consent is not a valid defense, even if you were led to believe by the other party that they were of age when in reality they are not. In the case of statutory rape, individuals who are younger than the age of consent (16 years old) are statutorily unable to consent to sex. As a result, any sexual encounter with someone below the age of consent always occurs without consent, even if both individuals have stated that they agree to the encounter.

Penalties Upon Conviction

Judges in Massachusetts have broad discretion in determining the punishment upon conviction. While each criminal statute has a maximum possible sentence, judges can impose a shorter sentence depending on your situation.

The rape of a child is punishable by any amount of time in jail or up to life imprisonment. Aggravated rape of a child and indecent assault are punishable by a minimum of 10 years in jail. Additionally, those in Massachusetts convicted of child rape or indecent assault are required to register as sex offenders. Registered sex offenders must occasionally provide personal information to local police officers, such as their name, address, and photograph, which may also be made available to the public.

Let Brad Bailey Law Defend You

If you have been charged with statutory rape, contact Brad Bailey Law immediately for experienced and knowledgeable representation. Whether you are a college student or adult accused of engaging in sexual intercourse with someone under the age of consent in Massachusetts, our firm can craft the most effective and aggressive defense against your charge. We can argue for mitigated charges or even a complete dismissal of your case, depending on the facts of your situation.

For experienced representation in your statutory rape case, contact us at Brad Bailey Law to schedule a consultation today.

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