Being accused of a sex crime is possibly one of the most serious charges someone could ever face, particularly if the offense includes a child or a minor. The consequences will last a lifetime. Penalties include prison sentences, fees, a criminal record and having to register as a sex offender, possibly for life. This, in turn, can affect employment and even some of the most basic civil rights.
Laws and Penalties
There are several types of sexual crimes in Massachusetts, most of which are covered under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265. Crimes included are:
- Child Pornography
- Dissemination of Child Pornography
- Dissemination or Possession of Obscene Matter
- Enticing a Person for Prostitution or Sexual Intercourse
- Indecent Assault & Battery (Age 14 or under)
- Indecent Assault & Battery (Age 14 or over)
- Indecent Exposure
- Inducing a Minor into Prostitution
- Internet Sex Crimes
- Knowing Purchase or Possession of Child Pornography
- Lewd Conduct
- Prostitution, Pimping and Soliciting
- Statutory Rape
- Violation of Sex Offender Registration Requirement Sex Offender Registry
In Massachusetts, pursuing anybody who is accused of sex crimes is done zealously. The penalties vary tremendously depending on the nature of the conviction. In many cases, the crime is seen as a federal crime, which often carries even harsher penalties. Depending on whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony, and depending on how serious the crime is, penalties include lengthy periods in prison, probation, high fines, counseling, community service, and the loss of legal rights. Furthermore, most will have to sign the sex offenders register for life. Penalties for cases in which a minor is involved, even if the minor gave consent for the sexual act, could include life in prison.
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While these laws and penalties are necessary, because of the nature of the crime, it is also a known fact that many people are falsely accused of perpetrating a sex crime and some are even wrongfully convicted.
Sex Crime Defenses
Someone who is accused of committing a sex crime should immediately seek legal assistance, before discussing the case or situation with anyone else, including the police. A good criminal defense attorney will then look into the facts of the case, and find the most plausible defense depending on the exact circumstances. The most common defenses in Massachusetts sex crime charges are:
- Discrediting the accusers and demonstrating that they have an illicit motive in making the claim. Motives can include covering up guilt after consensual sex, a failed relationship, disputes over custody or divorce or even manipulation of children. A good defense attorney will uncover whether there is a case for an illicit motive in the accusers through investigation.
- Challenging the evidence and trying to have some evidence suppressed are also commonly seen. If the evidence was obtained illegally, or if it was contaminated, it could be dismissed. Oftentimes, outside experts are brought in to look at the evidence. Being able to challenge physical evidence is often key to a sex crime defense, as police officers have to comply with a huge set of standards in order to collect and subsequently preserve evidence. It is a common occurrence that these standards are not properly followed. By filing the right motions and having existing evidence inspected by an expert, some evidence may be thrown out of court.
- An attorney may also try to expose tainted testimony. This is a very common defense in allegations of child abuse. Children’s testimony is often discredited because they were interviewed in a suggestive or biased way. If it can be shown this type of interviewing took place, then the child’s testimony can be classed as tainted and will have to be excluded from the proceedings.
Statute of Limitations
Under MGL c.277, s.63, the statute of limitations on sex crime cases is 27 years from the date the crime was reported, or from the date the child involved in the case turns 16. However, there are calls for the statute of limitations to be revoked entirely. It is for this reason that, under MGL c.260, s.4C-1/2 as added by St.2014, c.145, the statute of limitations in cases involving children or minors has been extended. Furthermore, under MGL c.260, s.4C, which was amended by St.2014, c.145, those filing a civil suit must do so within 35 years of the act taking place, or 7 years from when the victim “discovered or reasonably should have discovered that an emotional or psychological injury or condition was caused by said act.”
Sex Crime Cases
- St. Paul’s prep school has history of sexual contests – In a recent rape trial, it has emerged that boys at the elite St. Paul’s prep school take the virginity of young girls before they get their diploma.
- Man from Boston held on fugitive warrants – A man from Boston has been held in Virginia on a fugitive warrant, which includes failing to register as a sex offender.
Worcester law enforcement start prostitution intervention efforts – Law enforcement in Worcester is trying to focus on criminalizing those who seek the services of prostitutes, rather than arresting the sex workers themselves. By targeting the Johns, they leave time for an outreach worker to speak to the prostitutes and provide them with assistance to turn their life around and escape sexual exploitation.
- Police in Chicopee update their list of level 3 sex offenders – A new name has been included on the list, and one name has been removed as the offender in question has moved out of Chicopee.
- Man starts petition to be removed from sex offenders registry.