A conviction for rape has serious consequences, including the possibility of a life prison sentence. Additionally, a convicted rapist will be required to register as a sex offender and may, after trial, be indefinitely committed to a “treatment center.”Elements of Rape
In order to convict a defendant of rape, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant engaged in either natural or unnatural intercourse with the alleged victim; and
- The defendant compelled the alleged victim to submit by force or threat of bodily injury and against his or her will.
Natural intercourse is defined as inserting the penis into the female sex organ. Unnatural intercourse includes oral sex, anal sex, and inserting any object into the genital or anal opening of another person’s body. Natural and unnatural intercourse is completed upon penetration, no matter how slight, of a person’s genital or anal opening.
Rape of a Child by Force is a separate crime that is charged in cases where the defendant allegedly raped someone under the age of 16 years old. If there is more than a 10-year age difference between the child and the defendant, a conviction will result in a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.Common Defense Strategies
Rape cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
- Identification - If the alleged victim claims she was raped by a stranger, identification will almost surely be an issue at trial. This defense will be dictated by the physical evidence. If the alleged victim went to the hospital and had a rape kit performed, and the defendant’s DNA was discovered in or around the alleged victim’s genitals, identification will likely not be a valid defense.
- Consent - This is the most common defense to rape. If the alleged victim consented to the sexual contact while it was happening, the defendant cannot be convicted of rape. Consent can be proven in various ways, including through the defendant’s testimony, the alleged victim’s behavior before and after the alleged assault, and the results of a rape kit (for example, if a rape kit was performed and there was no evidence of bruising or trauma, the defendant would argue that the lack of injury suggested that the alleged victim consented to the sex).
- Alleged Victim’s Alcohol or Drug Use - In some cases, an alleged victim is so intoxicated on drugs or alcohol that she is incapable of consenting to sex. However, the Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that the Commonwealth must prove that the alleged victim was severely intoxicated in order for her to lack capacity to consent. Additionally, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, that the alleged victim’s condition rendered her incapable of consenting.
- Alleged Victim’s Mental Health Records - If the alleged victim has previously received mental health counseling, her treatment records might be admissible at trial. There is a complicated procedure used to determine whether her records will be produced and ultimately shown to the jury. Attorney Spring is experienced in litigating such issues.
- Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - If the alleged victim has a criminal record or a history of violence, Attorney Spring will attempt to present this information to the jury. Criminal convictions are generally admissible within a certain time frame (convictions for misdemeanors within the last five years are admissible; convictions for felonies within the last 10 years are admissible).
- Bias - In most rape cases that go to trial, there is bad blood between the defendant and the alleged victim. The alleged victim ordinarily wants to see the defendant convicted and punished. The alleged victim’s desire for revenge will be fully exposed on cross-examination.
Rape in the Marriage - Many rape cases involve disputes between people who are married. In Massachusetts, the Commonwealth cannot force an individual to testify against his or her spouse. Therefore, if the alleged victim is married to the defendant and chooses not to testify, the Commonwealth will need to dismiss the case unless it can be proven without the alleged victim’s testimony. Attorney Spring will aggressively attempt to persuade prosecutors to dismiss these types of cases.
Even if the alleged victim is not married to the defendant, the alleged victim’s feelings about the case will be very important to the prosecutor. You need to have an attorney who can present the alleged victim’s feelings to the prosecutor and forcefully argue that the case should be dismissed.
Some alleged victims can refuse to testify because they have a Fifth Amendment Privilege. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person can be forced to offer testimony that might incriminate himself or herself in a crime. Therefore, if an alleged victim struck the defendant during the alleged rape or if the alleged victim lied to the police about the facts of the case, that witness can assert his or her Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to testify against the defendant.
Attorney Chris Spring has successfully defended individuals charged with all types of sex crimes. He has experience in cross-examining alleged child rape victims and has successfully filed motions to obtain alleged victims’ mental health records. He has hired a DNA expert to rebut the Commonwealth’s powerful forensic evidence and he has cross-examined the Commonwealth’s DNA experts. Attorney Spring is extremely experienced in defending rape cases.