Being Accused of Rape is a Serious Crime in Massachusetts

Brockton Criminal Defense Trial LawyersIf you have been charged with or are under police investigated for rape or date rape, our knowledgeable and experienced Boston Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys can help. The Noonan Defense Firm is available to assist clients throughout all of Massachusetts and the Greater Boston area including South Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Somerville, Quincy, New Bedford, Taunton, Attleboro, Lowell, Woburn, Medford, Waltham, Wareham, Lynn, Lawrence, Wrentham, Dedham, Salem, Fall River, Brookline, Chelsea, Worcester, Framingham, Everett, Revere, Dorchester and Roxbury and all smaller cities and rural areas in Massachusetts.

Most individuals charged, and convicted, of rape are reasonably certain to have actually committed this crime because of the availability and accuracy of DNA testing. However, more often than you might expect, charges of rape are leveled against a completely innocent person who then has his reputation unfairly dragged through the mud only to be exonerated at a much later date (after the damage has already been done).

Establishing the details of any given rape case can be extremely difficult; in many cases, it boils down to a “he says,” “she says” scenario, which is why it’s crucial to have a lawyer at your side who’s experienced in Massachusetts rape law.

In order to pursue a charge of rape, the district attorney has to establish two things:

  • First, that a sexual act (usually penetration of some sort) actually occurred, and
  • Second, that the victim was forced into this act against her will, either through violence, threat of violence (i.e., a weapon was used to intimidate an alleged victim) or what the law defines as “lack of capacity.”

This second clause is what makes rape cases so difficult both to prosecute and to defend against. In the most open-and-shut cases, say, a violent rape perpetrated by a complete stranger in a public park, the facts are relatively easy to prove, and the best a lawyer can do is to secure the shortest possible prison term for the defendant.

Lack of Capacity to Consent

However, many accusations of rape are much more ambiguous. In some cases there is no evidence that overt violence or physical force was involved, but the victim claims that she lacked the capacity to consent to the sexual act because she was drunk, on drugs, or even asleep or unconscious.

In cases where it can be shown that the defendant slipped the victim a “roofie” (a type of barbiturate known as the date-rape drug) or some other intoxicant against her knowledge or will, the outcome is predictable. The ambiguity comes in when the victim was an active participant in her own intoxication, because it’s nearly impossible for judges, juries and district attorneys to concur about how drunk a person has to be to lack the ability to consent to a sexual act.

Use of Intimidation or Threat of Harm

Another complication of Massachusetts rape laws occurs in situations where the victim feels that she was intimidated, rather than physically forced, into sexual activity. In these cases, the district attorney has to show that the victim feared the use of force, based on what she construed as the threatening or intimidating behavior of the defendant, rather than succumbing to the force itself.

As if all this weren’t ambiguous enough, the victim doesn’t necessarily have to actively resist the alleged rape in order to later press a claim. Add in the evolving body of statutes concerning “date rape” –a charge of rape leveled in the context of an existing relationship, ranging from friendship to marriage—and you can see how an innocent person can occasionally find himself on the wrong side of the law.

Fighting Unfair Charges of Rape

Fortunately, Massachusetts law does give defendants some leeway for fighting unfair charges of rape. Under this state’s “first complaint” doctrine, only the first person the alleged victim told about the rape is allowed to testify in court; previously, a  district attorney was free to call on the testimony of numerous such witnesses, which often prejudiced the defendant’s case (and gave the victim ample scope to enlarge and dramatize the details of the rape). Second, it’s increasingly common to invoke DNA evidence in contested cases of rape; some alleged perpetrators have been wrongly imprisoned for years until DNA results cleared them of rape charges.

Rape is an extremely serious crime, a first conviction for which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison (with increasing terms, up to a life sentence, for repeat offenders or those who committed rape with the aid of a lethal weapon). If you feel that you have been unfairly or vindictively accused of rape, the attorneys at The Noonan Defense Firm will do everything in their power to clear your reputation, including soliciting the testimony of witnesses, exploring evidence pertaining to the plaintiff, and, in the appropriate circumstances, obtaining DNA samples to help prove your innocence.

Accused of, or charged with rape? Call our Massachusetts sex crimes defense attorneys for experienced legal counsel.

Throughout his prosecutorial career, Attorney Gerald J. Noonan argued and tried hundreds of criminal cases including:

As a criminal defense attorney alone, Gerald J. Noonan has successfully handled more than 340 criminal trials.  Attorney Noonan knows the legal strategies and tactics both law enforcement and district attorneys use when trying to get criminal convictions. He has criminal trial experience on both sides of a criminal case, which is invaluable when you are looking for an attorney to represent you.

No matter where you are located, we are just a phone call away. Call us to schedule a free no-obligation case review and consultation at (508) 584-6955 and you will have taken your first step to find out how best to confront this important matter. You can also click here to use our Free Case Evaluation Form.

Our knowledgeable and experienced Boston Rape Accusation Attorneys at The Noonan Defense Firm are available to assist clients charged with rape or other sex crimes throughout all of Southeast Massachusetts, including but not limited to Plymouth County including Brockton, Plymouth, Bridgewater, Marshfield, Hingham, Duxbury, Scituate, Hanover, Wareham, Abington, Rockland, Whitman, Hanson, Holbrook, Kingston, Middleborough; Norfolk County including Quincy, Stoughton, Dedham, Weymouth, Braintree, Avon, Holbrook, Randolph, Canton, Sharon, Brookline, Franklin; Bristol County including New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton, Attleboro, Dartmouth, Westport, Mansfield, Easton, Raynham, Lakeville, Norton; Cape Cod, Falmouth, Barnstable.

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