Rape is commonly defined as unwanted or non-consensual sexual intercourse.
Under Massachusetts criminal law, the crime of Rape is a felony sex offense and may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 265, Section 22.
Under the common law, Rape is considered a capital offense, which means punishable by up to life in prison. Hiring the best Massachusetts rape defense lawyer is essential.
It is considered one of the most serious and heinous crimes known to the law. Rape may occur between two or more persons regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Legal Elements for Rape
Table of Contents
In order to be found guilty of Rape under Massachusetts criminal law, there must be strong evidence of the following two legal elements:
- the defendant engaged in sexual intercourse with the complaining witness;
- that the sexual intercourse was accomplished by compelling the complainant to submit by force or threat of bodily injury and against their will.
Sexual Intercourse Required for Rape
Under Massachusetts criminal law, the sexual intercourse necessary for a rape conviction may be either natural or unnatural sexual.
Natural intercourse means the insertion of the penis into the female sex organ. Unnatural sexual intercourse means oral sex, anal intercourse, and other intrusions by another body part (i.e. finger) or object into the genital or anal opening of another person.
Sexual intercourse necessary for rape, whether natural or unnatural, is complete upon penetration, however slight and regardless of duration.
Lack of Consent Necessary to Prove Rape
Among the legal elements necessary for a rape conviction under Massachusetts criminal law is that the sexual intercourse charged occurred against the complaining witness’s will.
This means the evidence must establish that the sex occurred without the victim’s consent. This may be proven with evidence that the complaining witness communicated the lack of consent to the defendant or resisted the sexual advances verbally and/or physically.
However, a person is not required by law to use physical force to resist an unwanted sexual encounter.
If a person fails to resist because of fear or bodily injury, the sexual encounter is not consensual. The complainant must be free to exercise his or her will to engage in sexual intercourse without any physical restraint or psychological coercion.
The issue of consent (or lack thereof) is determined by considering the totality of the circumstances leading up to and during the parties’ sexual encounter.
Capacity to Provide Consent
In some cases, an issue arises over whether the complaining witness had the capacity to consent to sexual intercourse. A party to sexual intercourse must have the capacity to voluntarily agree to participate in the conduct.
However, if the complainant was so impaired due to drugs or alcohol or for some other reason such as being asleep, unconsciousness, or mentally or physical disabled, the complainant may be incapable of providing consent under the law.
Consumption of drugs and/or alcohol alone does not automatically render a person incapable of providing consent.
However, where drugs and/or alcohol are involved, the level of intoxication must be examined when considering the issue of consent.
Where drugs and/or alcohol are not involved, the law looks to various other factors to decide consent such as the person’s intelligence, physical condition, maturity and experience, history and relationship between the parties, and actions and statements before, during and immediately following the sexual encounter.
Defending a Rape Allegation in Massachusetts
There are a limited number of ways to successfully defend a rape allegation in Massachusetts.
One common defense is that the evidence does not establish that the sexual encounter occurred. Perhaps the victim identified the wrong assailant or simply fabricated the sexual encounter.
False allegations do occur and can be difficult to overcome. Because of this, the power of a rape allegation cannot and should not be underestimated.
The second and most common defense to a rape charge is consent.
Under this theory, the defendant admits that sexual intercourse occurred, but that the encounter was with the complainant’s knowledge and permission.
Under Massachusetts criminal law, strong evidence of lack of consent is necessary for a rape conviction. Defendants moving forward on a consent defense may both attack the prosecution’s evidence and offer affirmative defense evidence.
Evidence of consent may be established during cross-examination of Commonwealth or prosecution witnesses at trial, as well as by the defendant testifying in his defense at trial, should he elect to do so. However, a defendant is not required to testify in his defense.
A defendant’s testimony is also not required to raise or successfully present a consent defense. However, the election to testify by a defendant should be carefully analyzed by the defendant and his counsel when seeking to establish a consent defense.
Consent or lack of consent is a fact-based determination based upon the totality of evidence presented, to include the absence of evidence.
Common factors include:
- verbal resistance
- physical resistance, or lack thereof
- statements or actions consistent with a consensual sexual encounter
- the sexual history and prior relationship between the parties
- the sequence of events during the sexual encounter
- the complainant’s actions after the sexual encounter
- timing of the allegation in relation to the sexual encounter
These factors should be considered individually and collectively and analyzed through the lens of common sense.
Potential Punishment if Convicted of Rape in Massachusetts
The potential consequences for rape, if convicted, in the Commonwealth may be found at Under Massachusetts criminal law, the crime of Rape may be found at Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 265, Section 22 (a) and (b).
If the rape results in serious bodily harm to the victim or was committed as a joint venture or in connection with another enumerated offense, the defendant faces the possibility of life in prisons.
First-offense rape in Massachusetts
A defendant convicted of a first-offense rape under Massachusetts criminal law that does not involve serious bodily harm or the conditions mentioned above shall be punished by a term in state prison that does not exceed twenty years.
There is no mandatory minimum jail sentence, however, convicted offenders are almost always sentenced to a term of incarceration in state prison.
Second and subsequent rape offense in Massachusetts
A defendant convicted of a subsequent rape offense faces the possibility of life imprisonment, or any term of years.
If a rape is committed utilizing a firearm of any kind, a convicted defendant shall be sentenced to state prison for not less than ten years.
If the defendant is convicted of a subsequent rape charge involving the use of a firearm, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years in state prison and a maximum potential sentence of life imprisonment.
Rape is both a felony and sex offense. This means that convicted offenders, once released from incarceration, must comply with statutory sex offender registration and mandatory treatment requirements.