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In the past, we have tried to discuss statutory rape and statutory sexual assault crimes from various angles. One of our primary angles has been simply to outline the formal definitions of these crimes, outline their classifications, and also their possible punishments.
In this post, we are going to try something a bit different and present 10 “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) about statutory rape in Maine. This will enable us to approach this topic a bit differently, and perhaps cover certain nuances which aren’t ordinarily covered.
The reason why we have focused on this subject as much as we have is because of its importance. As we will see, an allegation of statutory sexual assault or rape is certainly not something to take lightly. A conviction for one of these crimes, even a lesser one, can carry very severe penalties.
Firstly, we will go through and carefully answer basic questions about the multiple kinds of statutory sexual assault here in Maine. As we’ve learned from our previous discussions, Maine law breaks things down into specific categories, and each category of crimes has its own requirements, classification, and possible punishments.
Then, we will progress to questions regarding possible defenses, and a few other remaining topics.
The age of consent in Maine is currently 16 years of age. This means that, regardless of verbal consent or other representations of consent, a person under the age of 16 cannot legally give consent to sexual activity.
This is true even if the underage person initiates the sexual activity. As mentioned, Maine has numerous forms of statutory sexual assault, such as abuse of a minor, unlawful touching, and so forth. Furthermore, special rules apply to persons in certain authoritative positions, such as teachers.
Under current Maine criminal law, the Class A crime of statutory gross sexual assault is defined as a “sex act” between a legal adult and a person under the age of 14. In this context, a sex act is defined as any direct genital contact, or oral or anal sex.
In addition to the scenario involving an adult and a person under 14, this crime can also occur when the perpetrator is either a school employee or teacher, and the victim is a student (of any age), and also when the perpetrator is a teacher or employee of a youth center, daycare, or drug treatment facility, and the victim is under the age of 18, although the crime classification is a lower level felony in those cases.
Under current law, the crime of “sexual abuse of a minor” is defined as a sex act between an adult and a child between the ages of 14 to 15, and the perpetrator is minimally 5 years older; or, between a student aged 16 to 17, and the perpetrator is a teacher or school employee who is minimally 21 years old and works in the same district.
Importantly, if the perpetrator is 10 years older or more than the victim, this is considered a more serious offense in the eyes of Maine law, and the punishment is correspondingly more severe.
The crime of statutory unlawful sexual contact is defined as “sexual contact” (touching of the genitals or anus) under the following conditions: the victim is under 14 years of age, and the perpetrator is minimally 3 years older; or, the victim is between the ages of 14 to 15, and the perpetrator is minimally 10 years older; or, the victim is under 18 and the perpetrator is either a teacher or school official and the victim is in the same school or same district.
Readers should be aware that this charge will be bumped to a higher classification whenever the victim is 12 years of age or younger. Furthermore, the perpetrators previous convictions, and also the exact nature of the sexual contact itself, can exacerbate a given charge.
The crime of unlawful sexual touching is defined as the touching of another person’s buttocks, groin, inner thigh, or breasts with a sexual intent. The circumstances which apply to the previous crimes also apply to sexual touching, so statutory unlawful sexual touching occurs if the victim is under the age of 16, or if the victim is of another age but there is sufficient distance in age between the victim and the perpetrator.
Incidentally, a person may also be charged with “child enticement” whenever there is an attempt to lure a child to engage in a sex act, even if no act takes places. In other words, a failed attempt to engage in sexual misconduct with a minor is still a criminal offense in Maine. This crime occurs when the child is not yet 14 and the perpetrator makes a clear attempt to entice the child for sexual gratification.
There are two separate “mistake” defenses which may be raised to potentially overcome a statutory sexual assault allegation: mistake of fact, and mistake of age. The first variant – mistake of fact – basically contests the events which transpired. So, a person arguing mistake of fact would either deny that the incident occurred at all, or deny that he or she were actually the perpetrator (mistaken identity).
When it comes to mistake of age, the alleged perpetrator asserts that he or she had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim was of a certain age. In other words, the alleged perpetrator is contending that his or her interpretation (of the situation) was reasonable, and that therefore a charge should be defeated. Maine law is actually far gentler in this area than other jurisdictions, because Maine law allows this defense, although the alleged perpetrator must show that he or she had a “reasonable” basis to believe that the victim was at least 16 years of age. In other states, this defense cannot necessarily be raised.
Because of the way that Maine’s sexual assault laws are written, Maine lawmakers included a provision to ensure that consensual sexual activity between young lovers isn’t criminally punished. This is the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” defense or exemption. This defense applies to the charge of sexual abuse of a minor (described above).
With this defense, a person can potentially overcome a charge when the alleged victim is between 14 to 15 years of age, but the perpetrator still cannot be more than 5 years older than the alleged victim. So, with the Romeo and Juliet defense, a 19-year-old could potentially overcome a charge of sexual abuse of a minor when the minor was 15 years old. If, however, the alleged perpetrator were 20 years old, and the victim were 14, then the Romeo and Juliet defense wouldn’t succeed, because the age gap would be too large.
In addition to the defenses mentioned, there is another defense which can be raised to possibly defeat a charge: the marital exemption. The marital exemption defense is rather simple: the alleged perpetrator simply states that he or she and the alleged victim were married at the time of the alleged incident. In the State of Maine, this constitutes a valid defense, and so if the perpetrator and victim were in fact involved in a lawful marriage at the time of the incident, then the marital exemption would apply and the charge would be defeated.
However, readers should be aware that this exemption cannot function if the perpetrator and victim were separated or living apart at the time of the incident. The two parties must not only be legally married, but currently dwelling together in order for the marital exemption to be raised.
The State of Maine has a “mandated abuse reporting” system, which basically means that certain individuals have an affirmative duty to disclose knowledge of statutory sexual assault or statutory rape. This law is listed under Title 22, Section 3477. The list of individuals who possess such an affirmative duty is quite long, and basically includes nearly anyone whom the child might come into contact with on a day-to-day basis.
So, for instance, the following types of people are required to report incidents or suspected incidents of abuse while working in a professional capacity: medical examiner, physician’s assistant, dentist, dentist’s assistant, podiatrist, chiropractor, social worker, psychologist, pharmacist, and so forth. The full list includes many more types of people. Basically, if one of these people sees evidence of abuse, he or she has an obligation to report the evidence, and failure to do so can lead to criminal punishments.
The possible penalties for statutory rape or statutory sexual assault can be quite severe. Ultimately, the charge that a given person might face always depends on multiple things, such as the number of prior convictions, the exact nature of what occurred, the severity of what occurred, and so forth. For the purposes of this post, we will just focus on the ordinary punishments which can follow from one of the offenses we covered.
For a gross sexual assault against someone under the age of 14, the maximum punishment is 30 years in prison and a financial penalty of $50,000. For the crime of sexual abuse of a minor, the punishment is usually 1 year in prison and up to $2,000 in fines if the minor were 14 to 15; if the perpetrator is minimally 10 years older, then the punishments jump to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
If the perpetrator is a teacher or school official, then the punishments normally are 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. The crime of unlawful sexual touching is ordinarily punishable by a prison sentence of 1 year and a fine of $2,000.
Again, this information is only intended for reference purposes, as the exact punishment of any given offense can vary greatly. Another important consequence which follows from certain sexual offenses in Maine is that the perpetrator must register as a sex offender.
Registering as a sex offender follows a specific procedure, and those who have to register can be impacted throughout their life in various ways. Sex offenders may have a more difficult time gaining certain forms of employment, or traveling, or upgrading their immigration status, and so forth. Simply put, registering as a sex offender can have negative repercussions which match or even exceed the prison sentence or financial penalties of sexual assault crimes.
These are only the 10 questions which we felt it would be most beneficial for our readers to address; there are certainly far more questions about this subject which can potentially be raised.
If you have additional questions, the best thing would be to contact the Maine Criminal Defense Group today for more information. If you’ve been accused of any sex crime, you need immediate professional assistance. Give us a call at 207-571-8146 and one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys can respond.
If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with
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