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All crime is a serious matter, but not all crimes come with the same level of severity. Few people would try to argue that a simple act of vandalism – say, a bit of graffiti on a public wall – is more severe than an instance of reckless driving.
When it comes to the most severe crimes, sexual assault must be ranked near the top as society is now well aware of the very unpleasant consequences and long-lasting effects these crimes can produce.
Throughout the course of our practice, we hear many of the same questions regarding sexual assault from readers and prospective clients. In this post, we’d like to continue with our FAQ format and address a few of the more commonly heard questions on sexual assault.
If you have a question which doesn’t appear on this short list, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask us your question right away. Give the Maine Criminal Defense Group a call today at (207) 571-8146.
If you’ve been charged with a sexual assault crime of any variation, you should seek professional legal assistance immediately.
Sexual assault allegations are not a matter to treat lightly, as punishments for lesser offenses can be very harsh. If you need expert assistance now, give us a call.
Maine law categorizes a wide range of offenses as sexual assault crimes. These crimes cover sharply disparate behaviors, including the most serious offenses – rape or forced penetration, child molestation, etc. – to the least serious offenses (child enticement, non-violent harassment or stalking, etc.). Also, within each offense itself there is variation in the level of severity and consequently the possible punishments which can follow.
Yes, certain crimes are actually defined by the age difference between the perpetrator and the victim, or certain crimes are exacerbated by a large enough age difference. For example, the crime of “unlawful sexual contact” is defined as sexual touching involving a victim under the age of 14 when the perpetrator is minimally 3 years older, but it’s also defined as sexual touching involving a victim between 14 to 15 years of age and a perpetrator who is minimally 10 years older. The crime of sexual abuse of a minor is exacerbated whenever the perpetrator is 10 years older than the victim (or more). We see this same pattern with other sexual assault crimes, and we see it in other jurisdictions as well.
Yes, Maine has a crime which specifically refers to instances in which a perpetrator attempts to commit a sexual assault against a victim but is unsuccessful. This crime is called “child enticement” in Maine, and it occurs when a perpetrator makes a clear attempt to lure a child (under the age of 14) for the purposes of sexual misconduct. Although the perpetrator isn’t able to engage in the sexual misconduct, the attempt itself is considered a criminal act and can be prosecuted as such in Maine.
Simply because an allegation of sexual assault takes place doesn’t mean that a conviction will result in all cases. There can be many viable defenses to an allegation of sexual assault. When it comes to potential defenses, the viability of any given defense obviously depends on the specific circumstances. With that said, we can identify several defenses which tend to be raised more often than others. Mistake of fact is among the most common defenses; this is just a simple defense which says “the identity is mistaken” – the crime happened, but the perpetrator has been incorrectly identified – or “the crime never happened at all.” A mistake of fact defense depends on things such as the reliability of witnesses, the value or significance of the available evidence, and so forth.
The “Romeo & Juliet” defense is another commonly used defense in Maine. Basically, this is a defense to the crime of sexual abuse of minor and holds that a person cannot be convicted of such a crime if he or she isn’t more than 5 years older than the victim. The law is written in this way in order to protect young couples engaging in consensual sexual activity.
Another common defense is the “mistake of age” defense. In Maine, a defendant has the ability to claim that he or she had a reasonable belief regarding the age of an alleged victim. Hence, if a defendant had a reasonable basis on which to believe that another person was at the age of consent, then that defendant may be able to overcome a charge of statutory sexual assault. Maine is unlike most jurisdictions throughout the country in this way, as most jurisdictions today don’t allow this type of defense.
In the State of Maine, the “age of consent” – that is, the age at which a person is capable of giving consent for sexual activity – is 16, which means that, as a general matter, any sexual activity with a person below this age is considered “statutory rape” by default. However, Maine has a complex system of laws which address various factual scenarios, and so statutory rape is actually several distinct crimes which have their own definition. So, there is gross sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor, unlawful sexual contact, unlawful sexual touching and child enticement. There are also more severe variations of these same crimes – so, for instance aggravated sexual assault when the crime is committed in a certain way.
Yes, generally, the fact that both the alleged perpetrator and victim were intoxicated isn’t a defense to sexual assault. The only way in which this might be a successful defense is if the defendant can prove that he or she was intoxicated such that the underlying offense would’ve been impossible. In other words, if the alleged perpetrator can show that the level of intoxication undermines the validity of the crime itself, then it might be a successful defense. But, in most cases this isn’t a viable defense for the alleged perpetrator. In point of fact, if the alleged victim were known to be under the influence of alcohol or another substance, that alone could damage a defendant’s case because the intoxication diminishes the victim’s ability to give proper consent.
If someone is convicted of a sex offense in Maine, that person may be required to register as a sex offender depending on the specific nature of the crime. If registration is a requirement for a given individual, the burden is on that individual to take the initiative and start the registration process. The court or other jail personnel will not take the initiative and provide forms, instructions or other information. However, if someone makes a specific query, the court will let an offender know if he or she does in fact have to register as an offender.
The registration process simply involves giving certain information to the State Bureau of Identification (SBI) and the local police department in which the offender resides (or previously resided). This registration must be periodically renewed, but an offender also must inform the SBI about any pertinent updates, such as a relocation, change of employment, and so forth.
The amount of data needed to register as a sex offender is fairly substantial in the State of Maine. In addition to essential personal information – full name and aliases, date of birth, etc. – the offender also needs to submit fingerprint samples, details regarding mental health status, details regarding the underlying conviction, a recent photograph, and addresses where the offender intends to live and work in the future. All this information is kept recorded by the SBI.
The State of Maine has a “verification process” which it uses to ensure that the information gathered from offenders is accurate. Basically, all offenders go through the verification process, and the verification procedure itself is the same for every offender; but, the frequency of the process varies depending on which “tier” the offender falls into. So, Tier I offenders must finish the process once per year for a total length of 10 years; Tier II offenders must complete the process once every 6 months for a total length of 25 years, and Tier III offenders (the most severe category for offenders) need to complete the process once every 3 months for the remainder of his or her life.
The penalties for failing to register, and for failing to properly complete the verification process, can be quite severe, as the State of Maine considers maintaining an accurate sex offender registry to be a top priority. An accurate sex offender registry has consequences which can deeply affect communities and residents throughout the entire state, and so the matter is taken seriously. Expectedly, the penalties for violations are different for first offenses and repeat offenses. A first offense is treated as a Class D misdemeanor and carries a possible sentence of up to 364 days in jail and a fine of $2,000 (maximum). A second offense is treated as a Class C felony and is punishable with a jail sentence of up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. Finally, a third offense is classified as a Class B felony and is punishable with a sentence of 10 years and a monetary penalty of up to $20,000.
These are just a few of the more commonly seen questions on sexual assault in Maine law. Readers will have many, many other questions aside from these few mentioned here. If readers would like to learn more, they should contact the Maine Criminal Defense Group today and speak to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.
Or, if you’ve been accused of a sexual assault crime, you should contact us immediately regarding representation. As we mentioned, a sexual assault allegation is a very much serious matter; a conviction can literally affect a person for the remainder of his or her life.
If you need assistance, contact the Maine Criminal Defense Group by calling 207-571-8146 and consult with one of our attorneys today.
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
one of our team members, who will discuss your case with you and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys
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