Any criminal charge or arrest is nearly always unexpected and downright scary. No one is happy when they are arrested or excited to learn their life may take a dramatic turn for the worse. If you are accused of a Massachusetts sex crime, you are at a very serious point in your life– one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Being convicted of a sex crime in Massachusetts means you are possibly at risk to serve time in jail or prison, which would mean your life won’t ever be the same again. In addition to the terrifying prospect of incarceration, you could be required to register as a sex offender and be forced to carry the stigma of being a “sex offender” for the rest of your life. It would follow you wherever you go, especially now that internet background checks and searches are easier than ever.

When you are accused of a sex offense, it can feel like no one is on your side. It’s not uncommon to lose the support of friends and family during a time like this. A criminal defense attorney can feel like your only champion as you go through these court proceedings.

Massachusetts Sex Offenses – Laws and Penalties

 The charge you face and subsequently the penalty you face are all dependent upon the facts of your case. What happened, how it happened, and who it happened to, will all play a role in determining the charges against you and the sentence you could be up against.

But the good news is, for relatively minor incidents, and even those considered more serious, there are always legal defense options.

Open and Gross Lewdness

A charge of open and gross lewdness applies when someone publicly exposes themselves intentionally, in a manner that could be considered “shocking”, and a member of the public viewed the act and was shocked.

Public masturbation is the most common act resulting in a charge of open and gross lewdness in Massachusetts. Deliberately urinating in public can also be an open and gross offense, where unintentionally urinating in public would likely only be an indecent exposure charge.

Open and Gross Lewdness Defenses

Our attorneys win open gross cases by arguing that it was either unintentional or a wildly out of character action that is unlikely to ever happen again. Our goal would be to avoid any conviction that could result in a sex offense registry requirement.

 Lewd and Lascivious Conduct

 The criminal offense of lewd and lascivious conduct can be applied to a variety of situations. We most often see it in cases of indecent exposure or other sexual acts in public where no victim is physically touched. In most cases, this charge is classified as a misdemeanor and carries up to one year in jail with fines.

Indecent Assault (Sexual Assault)

Indecent assault under Massachusetts law, which is more serious.

The penalties for indecent assault in Massachusetts are as follows:

Massachusetts Rape Laws

Rape is defined as non-consensual sexual intercourse. It could be considered non-consensual if the alleged victim verbally or otherwise objects but also if they are considered unable to consent. Their age, mental capacity, or physical capacity could all deem them unable to consent.

The penalty for a rape conviction can vary depending on the facts of the case. In most cases, it is punishable by up to 20 years. However, if you have a prior conviction for this kind of offense, if the act results in injury to the victim, or if it is committed in the commission of a qualifying offense, you could be sentenced to life in prison. If the act was committed with the use of a firearm, you could also be required to serve a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 10 years.

 Rape of a Child

Sex crimes against children are typically seen as the most heinous crimes on the books. Because of this, the penalties are severe. There are many variations of sexual offenses against a child. Generally, rape against a child under the age of 16 involving force or threat of injury carries a potential life sentence.

Child Pornography / Sexting

Any possession of nude or sexually explicit images of a juvenile, in printed or electronic form is a felony sex offense of child pornography.

Massachusetts has not yet reformed its laws to consider sexting by teens, which can be consensual, and even make it a felony for a teen to possess a nude picture of herself.

A reform law (H318) has been proposed in the Legislature and is strongly supported by the Governor. The new law would allow teens to be charged with misdemeanor juvenile offenses, and addressed with possible penalties that include educational diversion programs. Such programs would avoid a criminal penalty and criminal record if successfully completed, and also remove the threat of a sex offender registry in these cases where a felony child pornography prosecution is clearly not apppriate.

Failure to Register as a Sex Offender

 Once convicted of a sex crime, you are required to register with the state. This means you have to check in from time to time and notify them if your address changes. If you fail to register or to keep your registration current, you can face additional criminal charges. For such an offense, you can be sent to jail for an additional six months.

Failure to register can be as simple a mistake as not updating your current address, even though it may not be your fault.

Ref: Mass. General Laws Chapter 265


Massachusetts criminal sex offenses carry severe penalties and consequences that can be felt for the rest of your life. Contact us to speak with a local criminal defense attorney today.