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Understanding the Law on Rape of a Minor in Maine

Criminal laws that make it illegal to have sex with people who are underage vary widely from state to state. Even the names that are used for the crime are different, including:

  • Statutory rape
  • Rape of a minor
  • Gross sexual assault
  • Gross sexual abuse.

One thing in common between all of these laws is that the penalties of a conviction are severe, and the collateral consequences of a conviction are among the worst that you can have to deal with.

The Portland criminal defense lawyers at WTB Law represent people who have been accused of raping a minor.  With our help, you can assert your rights and defend your future against a wrongful conviction.

Maine's Laws Against the Rape of a Minor

In Maine, there are two laws that prohibit having intercourse with someone underage. They are:

  1. 17-A Maine Statute § 253, or gross sexual assault; and
  2. 17-A Maine Statute § 254, or sexual abuse of minors.

Both of these laws are based on one idea: People under the age of 16 are legally incapable of giving their consent to a sexual act. This is the age of consent (16 years old) in Maine. Having sex – intercourse or otherwise – with someone under the age of consent can lead to serious legal trouble.

However, Maine also has a Romeo and Juliet law that makes an exception to the age of consent when the sexual act was consensual and between two people who are close in age.

Gross Sexual Assault and Minors in Maine

Gross sexual assault under 17-A Maine Statute § 253 is one of the statutes that deals with sexual intercourse with a minor. Section 253(1)(B) and (C) both paint a bright-line rule in the sand by prohibiting the act of engaging in a “sexual act” with anyone aged 13 or under.

Importantly, it doesn't matter if you were under the impression that the other person was 14 or older. The law is strict and only cares about the other person's actual age.

Sexual Abuse of Minors and Maine's Romeo and Juliet Law

The other law involving sex and minors in Maine is 17-A Maine Statute § 254. This statute is not as strict and provides more opportunity to defend yourself against a criminal charge.

Sexual abuse of minors covers alleged victims who are aged 14 or 15. Section 254(1)(A) makes it illegal to engage in a sexual act with people of this age, so long as the defendant is at least 5 years older than the other person. This is the age-specific exception known as Maine's “Romeo and Juliet Law” because it allows similarly aged couples to engage in consensual sex.

How does Maine define a Sexual Act?

Both of these laws rely on a particular phrase: They both prohibit “sexual acts.” The definition for a “sexual act” is found at 17-A Maine Statute § 251(C), which lists two things:

  1. Direct physical contact between one person's genitals and another person's genitals, mouth, or anus; and
  2. Direct physical contact between one person's genitals or anus and a device used by another person, if it is done for sexual arousal or to cause harmful or offensive contact.

Importantly, any contact will do – no penetration is necessary.

Penalties for the Rape of a Minor in Maine

The penalties for a conviction for the rape of a minor span a wide spectrum and depend on whether the criminal charge was for gross sexual assault or for sexual abuse of minors.

Gross sexual assault offenses – those involving a minor under the age of 14 – are Class A crimes. These are the most severe type of crimes in the state of Maine and carry jail terms of up to 30 years and fines of up to $50,000.

Offenses for the sexual abuse of minors – those that involve a minor aged 14 or 15 – can be Class C or D crimes:

  • If the defendant is at least five years older than the minor, it is a Class D crime that carries up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • If the defendant is at least 10 years older than the minor, it is a Class C crime that carries up to five years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.

Additionally, many convictions for these offenses will require you to register as a sex offender in Maine.

How to Defend Against a Charge of Raping a Minor

There are defenses that you can raise to an allegation that you raped a minor under either of Maine's statutes. Some of the most common defense strategies run along these lines:

  • You reasonably believed the other person was an adult. Charges of the sexual abuse of a minor – but not of gross sexual assault – can be defended with evidence that you reasonably believed the other person was of age. If the person told you that he or she was over 16 or if he or she showed a fake ID, it can be a strong defense to a serious criminal charge.
  • The accusation is false. Sex offenses like the rape of a minor are notoriously difficult to defend against because they almost always boil down to a “he said, she said” dispute. People with an ulterior motive and a reason to hurt you – whether out of anger or to retaliate for something that happened before – often utilize this for their own gain. Presenting evidence that they have an ulterior motive can undercut your accuser's credibility and protect your interests.
  • You are married. Criminal charges can only follow sex offenses between unmarried couples. If you were married at the time of the alleged offense, it can lead to the charges being dropped.

WTB Law: Sex Crime Defense in Portland, Maine

Portland, ME sex crime defense lawyers at WTB Law represent those accused of raping a minor. This is a severe sex offense and raising all of the defenses available to you can help make sure you are not convicted for something you did not do.

The attorneys at WTB Law can help at this time of need. Contact us online or call our law office at (207) 571-8146 for the legal representation you need.

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What distinguishes our Firm from the numerous law firms throughout the state is that we genuinely care about the well-being of our clients. The staff and attorneys of WTB LAW ensure that every client receives hands-on and personalized attention throughout the life of their case.