Massachusetts -- Age of Consent

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GENERAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS


Chapter 272: Section 4. Inducing person under 18 to have sexual intercourse.

Section 4. Whoever induces any person under eighteen of chaste life to have unlawful sexual intercourse shall be punished as provided in the preceding section.

EDITORS NOTE:  The above section was delivered via email to the research department and has been verified with the State of Massachusetts.  Read the terminology carefully.  How does the prosecutor validate "chaste" or lack thereof.  It is probably a good "threat", but I would be surprised to see it hold up on appeal.   Secondly, in order for the defense to prove that the "victim" was not chaste, the defense would have the right to subpoena all previous sexual partners and close friends in an effort to disprove that the victim was chaste.  I would doubt that any "victim" or the parents of would allow such an intrusive action.  Although we have made an entry into the chart to reflect this finding, we still believe the age of consent to be 16.  Sure wish we would hear from attorneys licensed in Massachusetts ....

Updated 04-2001:  The email we receive ...

"The fact that you do not believe that the above law can be put into practice, nonetheless it is the law, and you are doing your visitors a great disservice by insisting that the age of consent in Massachusetts is sixteen, when anyone who can read can see that it is eighteen. As long as a law remains on the books it CAN be enforced. Several weeks ago a women was arrested in Wisconsin for having supplied condoms to he thirteen-year-old son because she knew that he was engaging in sexual intercourse with his girlfriend. She was charged with promoting child abuse as, legally, the boy was being "abused" by his girlfriend because he (like his girlfriend) was under sixteen. A law may be stupid (I think the age-of-consent laws ARE stupid), but just because you don't believe that a "victim" or his or her parents would allow the defense to subpoena all previous sexual partners and close friends in an effort to disprove that the victim was chaste, doesn't mean that
the law doesn't exist. The age of consent in Massachusetts is eighteen, as spelled out in Chapter 272, Section 4, of the General Laws of Massachusetts, and will remain as such until this law is repealed."

EDITOR:  We will let his comments speak for themselves.

Added 07-2002:

The point of this section is to penalize someone for inducing an innocent minor to commit an unlawful sexual act. It does not of itself declare any sexual acts to be unlawful. To illustrate, if a married person were to initiate a sexual relationship with a "chaste" 16-year-old, that person would be in violation of this section because adultery qualifies as unlawful sexual intercourse under Massachusetts law; if the person were unmarried, there  would be no violation. Note: this section has been successfully challenged as being unconstitutionally vague (i.e. the meaning  of "chaste" is unclear); the legislature is expected to amend.

 

 

 

Added 03-2002:
in response to your debate about the MA age of consent, I have a friend who i s a sergeant in a local police force, he was telling me a story about a girl who was sleeping with her boyfriend, the parents hated him. she was 17 at the time, and the boyfriend was 28, he said there was nothing they could do because the age of consent in MA is 16.  The only way they could've gone after this guy was if he had travelled across state lines with her, then they would've been able to pursue
kidnapping charges against him since it is unlawful to travel across state lines with a "minor" without parental consent. so there's my two cents worth on this issue! it is a confusing law the way it is written, but those were his exact words on the subjec, i think he should know, he's been a cop for almost 30 years! please maintain my
confidentiality. thank you.

EDITOR:  Unfortunately, hearing from a police officer is not the same as reading it in the law.  And we have heard from dozens of law enforcements officers that "thought" the law was a particular way when in fact, they were wrong. 

Also added 03-2002:
Friday, February 22, 2002 / 04:59 PM    Gay rights groups are applauding a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled Thursday that the state's sodomy laws do not apply to private consensual acts. The high court found that two statutes of Massachusetts law cannot be enforced against those engaged in oral or anal sex, as long as those involved did not intend it to be in public view.  "This is a tremendous victory," said attorney Jennifer Levi with the group
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). "The court today clarified that these antiquated laws may not be used to intrude on individuals' rights to
engage in common acts of intimacy in private settings," she said. GLAD filed the case in July 2000 on behalf of nine individuals, saying the two provisions, which provide penalties of up to 5 and 20 years for convictions for oral and anal sex, are unconstitutional. Because none of the plaintiffs were currently subject to prosecution, the court dismissed the case without ruling on the constitutionality of the laws. However, before doing so, the court did make it clear that neither
provision applies to private, consensual conduct. While lawyers for the state argued the statutes are used to put an end to public sex, gay rights activists argued that police are using them to target gays.  "It's a national issue of discriminatory enforcement of the law; targeting gay men with undercover vice-officers, while not similarly targeting straight people," said Myron Dean Quon, deputy director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "It's great that Massachusetts has joined other states in clarifying that police cannot use the sodomy law in a discriminatory manner," Quon added. According to Lambda, all 50 states had some type of law criminalizing consensual sodomy as recently as the 1960's. Currently only 13 states have sodomy laws, three of which apply exclusively to same-sex conduct.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 265: Section 23. Rape and abuse of child.

Section 23. Whoever unlawfully has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse, and abuses a child under sixteen years of age shall, for the first offense, be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years, or, except as otherwise provided, for any term in a jail or house of correction, and for the second or subsequent offense by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years, but not less than five years.

 

 

GENERAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS

Chapter 272: Section 34. Crime against nature.

Section 34. Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with a beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years.

 

 

GENERAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS

Chapter 272: Section 35. Unnatural and lascivious acts.

Section 35. Whoever commits any unnatural and lascivious act with another person shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years or in jail or the house of correction for not more than two and one half years.

 

 

 

Date Mon, 6 Mar 2000 204019 -0500
To Whom it may concern 

This information may help with confirmation of the age of concent in Massacusetts.

http//www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl/265-22A.htm

http//www.state.ma.us/legis/laws/mgl/265-23.htm

Now i realize that this has to do with forceful rape however it seems that the age of consent is drawn at 16. Hope this helps.

 

Update 04-2001:  From (http://www.mafamily.org/StatutoryRape.htm)
Statutory Rape

Across America, a growing list of professionals in the fields of law, social services, and law
enforcement are sounding the alarm on statutory rape - when an adult unlawfully engages in
sexual intercourse with a minor. These professionals are calling for tougher enforcement of
existing laws or, where necessary, the passage of tougher laws. Their goal: to stop adult
men from preying sexually on young girls and, increasingly, young boys.

It is impossible to calculate fully the damage done to both children and society by the crisis
of statutory rape in Massachusetts and around the nation. The following are just some of the
devastating human and social consequences of adults committing statutory rape:

Sexual coercion and abuse of the child involved
Increased rates of teenage pregnancy
Increased rates of fatherlessness
Higher rates of child poverty and welfare dependency.

In an article by Michael Lynch published in The Public Interest (Summer 1998), Eloise
Anderson, then director of California's Department of Social Services is quoted as follows:
"When I was growing up, there was a saying, 'Sixteen will get you 20… Sixteen is a girl's
age; "20" is the number of years an adult male would spend in prison if he had sex with
her.'" More and more studies are pointing to the fact that a significant number of teens are
impregnated by adult men. While laws prohibiting predatory behavior have long been on the
books in all 50 states, they have mostly languished for the past two or three decades.

Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that until a person reaches the age of
maturity, that person is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. The age of
consent ranges from 14 to 18 years of age, although in more than half of the states -
including Massachusetts - the age of consent is 16. The primary intention of statutory rape
laws is to protect teenage girls and, recently, boys as well, from being sexually preyed upon
by adults. By design, the laws are meant to deter and punish adults who have sex with
minors. By definition, these laws are targeting non-forcible sexual activity. States and
counties are generally not pursuing teenage "lovers" who are close in age. Instead, law
enforcement agencies typically prosecute statutory rape cases only when there is an age
gap of 5 or more years between the minor and their partner.

In this Commonwealth, statutory rape is outlawed by Massachusetts General Law Chapter
265: Section 23 (Rape and Abuse of a Child):

Whoever unlawfully has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse,
and abuses a child under sixteen years of age shall, for the first offense, be
punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of years,
or, except as otherwise provided, for any term in jail or house of correction,
and for the second or subsequent offense by imprisonment in the state prison
for life or for any term of years, but not less than five years.

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, speaking at a March 8, 1996 press
conference, said, "I want to emphasize one thing: statutory rape is not a victimless crime.
Little girls pushed by grown men into sex and motherhood - experiences for which they are
not in any sense ready - are the victims of a crime. They should be defended with the full
force of the law."

Children under 16 are not legally able to engage consensually in sexual intercourse. Thus,
to the extent that they may voluntarily engage in sexual intercourse, their "consent" is not
recognized by the law. Therefore, their partners are guilty of the criminal offense of statutory
rape. Although laws against statutory rape are on the books, for years there has been lax
enforcement of existing statutory rape laws.

An aspect of teenage sexual activity that demands consideration is the element of coercion
which accompanies sex for a great many young girls. Studies have revealed that teenage
mothers with much older partners are disproportionately the childhood victims of sexual
assault by adult men. (see MFI's report, "Statutory Rape: When Adults Prey Sexually Upon
Children"). A study conducted by the Ounce of Prevention Fund in 1986 evaluated 445 teen
mothers in Illinois who were pregnant by age 16. Tragically, 60 percent of these girls
reported they had been forced into an unwanted sexual experience. More shocking, the
mean age for the first instance of abuse was 11 years old and more than half the mothers
were abused by men more than 10 years their senior (Ounce of Prevention Fund, "The
Prevalence of Coercive Sexual Experience Among Teenage Mothers," Chicago, IL, 1986).

According to the Guttmacher Institute, teens "who become sexually active at an early age
are especially likely to have experienced coercive sex: Seventy-four percent of women who
had intercourse before age 14 and 60 percent of those who had sex before age 15 report
having had a forced sexual experience" (Guttmacher Institute, Sex and America's
Teenagers, New York, 1994). Similarly, a 1992 study of 535 teen mothers in Washington
state revealed that two-thirds were victims of molestation, rape, or attempted rape prior to
their first pregnancy" (see Family Planning Perspectives, Jan./Feb. 1992).

In Massachusetts, MFI's research (using 1996 data) found that in cases where adult men
voluntarily acknowledge paternity:

Men age 20 and older account for 23 percent of all births by girls age 15 and younger
Men age 20 and older account for 39 percent of all births by girls age 17 and younger.

In light of the grave costs of statutory rape for children and society, MFI has called upon
state-level public officials to address the crisis of adults preying sexually upon children in the
Commonwealth, including:

Increasing the criminal penalties and/or enforcement for statutory rape by adults who
are five or more years older than their victims
Allocating special funds to allow district attorneys to prosecute statutory rape by
adults
Prosecuting adults for statutory rape regardless of pregnancy
Creating statutory rape education campaigns.

MFI hopes these efforts will bring about fundamental changes in our criminal justice system
and increase public awareness of the emotional, physical and societal consequences of this
disreputable and illegal act.

 

Update 06-23-01:
I have been asked the age of consent in Massachusetts by many high school  students with whom I work. I've read your chart, and wonder whether you   consider relevant the issues pertaining to the Michael Kennedy babysitter scandal. In The Boston Globe, on May 24, 1997, an article states that 16 is the age of consent.

Does anyone know??

 

 

 

 

07-2000 New Source: U.S. statutory rape laws is published on the Web by the National
Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. The booklet, which
requires Adobe Acrobat to read, is located at:


http://www.calib.com/nccanch/pubs/99statutes/35-SexualOffenses.PDF

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