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until this law is repealed."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.
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.
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.
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)
Across America, a growing list of professionals in the fields of law, social services, and
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
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
of statutory rape in Massachusetts and around the nation. The following are just some of
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
"When I was growing up, there was a saying, 'Sixteen will get you 20
age; "20" is the number of years an adult male would spend in prison if he had
her.'" More and more studies are pointing to the fact that a significant number of
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
laws is to protect teenage girls and, recently, boys as well, from being sexually preyed
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.
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
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
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
Children"). A study conducted by the Ounce of Prevention Fund in 1986 evaluated 445
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 ½ years old and more than half the
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
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
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
state-level public officials to address the crisis of adults preying sexually upon
children in the
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
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
and increase public awareness of the emotional, physical and societal consequences of this
disreputable and illegal act.
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
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: