Massachusetts Age of Consent Law

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 What Is the Age of Consent in Massachusetts?

The age of consent in Massachusetts is the age at which a person can consent to sex with another person over the age of 21. Massachusetts is one of 8 states with different ages of consent for males and females.

Generally, the age of consent for females is 16, and for males, it is 18. This only applies to heterosexual conduct. Massachusetts currently has no law which specifically addresses the age of consent for homosexual conduct. However, the statute that defines the crime of statutory rape in Massachusetts does not make any reference to the gender of the victim, so presumably, it applies to victims of all genders.

Under Massachusetts age of consent laws, the age of consent is higher when one person has a position of power or authority over the other person, such as that of an employer, a teacher, or a member of the clergy. In these situations, the age of consent may be 18 and, in some instances, 21 years old.

People must be at least 18 years old to get married in the state of Massachusetts. Unlike some other states, Massachusetts does not allow marriage under the age of 18 with parental permission. If a person who is under the age of 18 wishes to get married, they must obtain a court order from a district court where the minor resides before the marriage can take place.

In Massachusetts, a person commits the crime of statutory rape when they have sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse and abuses a minor under the age of 16. The statute makes a specific reference to abuse of a child in addition to sexual intercourse, but in practice, prosecution for the crime does not require a separate showing of abuse. The prosecution only needs to show that there was an act of sexual intercourse with a person who was under the age of consent to win a conviction for statutory rape.

What Is “Enticement to Crime?”

The crime of enticement of a child under the age 16 is committed when the perpetrator lures, induces, persuades, tempts, incites, solicits, coaxes, or invites a child under 16 to go into, leave, or remain in a vehicle, dwelling, building or an outdoor space.

The perpetrator must have the intent to entice the child for the purposes of then committing one of the following crimes:

  • Indecent assault and battery;
  • Rape;
  • Assault with intent to rape;
  • Open and gross lewdness;
  • Disseminating matter harmful to a minor;
  • Posing or exhibiting a minor under the age of 18 nude or involved in sexual conduct;
  • Purchasing or possessing visual material of a child in a sexual act;
  • Unnatural acts with a child under 16;
  • Prostitution;
  • Disorderly conduct;
  • Disturbing the peace;
  • Indecent exposure;
  • Keeping a disorderly house;
  • Lewd, wanton and lascivious behavior;
  • Sexual conduct for a fee.

In Massachusetts law, the crime of enticement of a child under age 16 is a felony sex offense.
In order to be found guilty of Enticement of a Child Under Age 16 under Massachusetts criminal law, there must be strong evidence of the following four legal elements of the crime:

  • The perpetrator used words, gestures, or other means to entice the victim to comply with the perpetrator’s wishes;
  • The victim was under 16 years of age or was a person whom the perpetrator believed to be a child under 16 years of age;
  • The perpetrator enticed the victim to go into, leave, or remain in a vehicle, dwelling, building, or outdoor space;
  • The perpetrator had the specific intent to commit one of the offenses listed above.

What Is the Penalty for Violating the Age of Consent Law?

In Massachusetts, statutory rape is a felony. If a person is convicted of statutory rape, they can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment in state prison for life or any other specific term of years. In addition, the judge can sentence the person to monitoring and registration for life as a sex offender with the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB).

In addition to the potential for harsh penalties, the negative stigma of a felony conviction for statutory rape can have a significantly adverse impact on a person’s life. This includes their educational and career opportunities.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Law of Statutory Rape?

A majority of states in the U.S. have an exception to statutory rape, which is referred to as the “Romeo and Juliet law.” It is an exception that is basically designed to prevent prosecution of teenagers who are close in age and who engage in consensual sexual activity. Generally, the teens involved must be over 13 years old and within 4 or 5 years of each other in age.

Massachusetts does not offer the Romeo and Juliet exception to the crime of statutory rape. Even if the two participants in the crime were teens who were close in age and perceived themselves as young lovers engaged in consensual sexual activity, they could be charged with statutory rape in the state of Massachusetts.

Given the rather harsh punishment that can be imposed and the lifelong consequences of conviction for statutory rape, parents should give pause and inform their children accordingly. If their child is charged, they would want to consult an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if their child should be threatened with statutory rape charges.

Are There Any Defenses to a Charge of Statutory Rape?

While a person who has been charged with statutory rape has a number of defenses available to them depending on the facts of their case, there are a few claims that are not of help to them in Massachusetts, as follows:

  • Ignorance of the age of the victim: The perpetrator may claim that they did not know the age of the victim, but that is not a defense to the crime. A perpetrator can still be convicted of statutory rape even if they believed the victim was over the age of 16.
    • Even if the victim lied to the perpetrator about their age, it is not a defense, and the perpetrator can still be convicted of the crime;
  • Consent: The whole point of statutory rape law is that a minor cannot consent to sexual conduct. So, it cannot be a defense to claim that the victim consented. Again, a person under the age of 16 if female and 18 if male cannot legally consent;
  • Teenagers: Again, many states have Romeo and Juliet exceptions to their statutory rape law that either excepts or minimize the punishment for young people close in age (e.g., teenagers, high school boyfriend and girlfriend) who engage in consensual sexual activity. Or it might minimize the punishment.
    • Unfortunately, Massachusetts is not one of these states, and it does not have such an exception.

One defense that is always available is the alibi defense. To succeed with this offense, it would be helpful if the person has a witness who can testify that they were with the person at the time the offense was committed.

Do I Need a Massachusetts Lawyer?

If you or your child have been charged with statutory rape, enticement or any other sex crime in the state of Massachusetts, you want to consult an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer.

LegalMatch.com can connect you to a knowledgeable lawyer who can protect your or your child’s rights. They can possibly negotiate the charge to a less serious offense, negotiate a plea deal, or represent you at trial if that should become necessary.

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