Sex offenses in Massachusetts are taken extremely seriously. Sex offenses can range from misdemeanors such and indecent exposure, to serious life felonies for rape charges. Sex offenses sometimes involve a number of unique procedural and evidentiary issues. Importantly, conviction of a sex offense can often include the requirement of registering as a sex offender. This, along with other serious potential penalties make it important to contact a criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with a sex offense.



In Massachusetts, there are many kinds of sex offenses. Some common sex offenses are:

  • Indecent Exposure

  • Open & Gross Lewdness & Lascivious Behavior

  • Indecent Assault & Battery

  • Purchase or Possession of Child Pornography

  • Disseminating Harmful Matter to a Minor

  • Sex for a Fee

  • Trafficking Persons for Sexual Servitude

  • Rape 

  • Rape of a Child

These examples illustrate the wide variety of sex offenses with which a person can be charged. While all of these crimes are serious, it is important to understand the kinds of consequences attached to each offense. Many of these crimes require registration as a sex offender, mandatory DNA Submission, and can even open a person up to indefinite civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person. A knowledgable attorney will be able to explain to you the potential consequences associated with any offense for which you are charged.


For example, a conviction of indecent exposure, or a first-time conviction of open & gross lewdness does not trigger sex offender registration, while a conviction of disseminating matter harmful to a minor, or a second conviction of open & gross lewdness does trigger registration.



When the alleged victim of a sexual assault first reports an assault or rape to another person, the statement to that person is known as the "first complaint." The person to whom that statement was made is known as the "first complaint witness."

"The First Complaint Doctrine" is a rule that is unique to sexual assault cases in Massachusetts. The rule allows the first complaint witness to testify at trial as to the first complaint of the alleged victim. This rule is unique, because in most circumstances, the rules of evidence and the U.S. Constitution prohibit a witness from testifying as to what another person told them. 

The purpose of this doctrine is to allow evidence of the credibility of the alleged victim. The credibility of the alleged victim is key because these kinds of cases are often considered easy to allege, and hard to disprove. Thus, a bolster to an alleged victim's credibility is allowed to show that the sexual assault was not made up. For a defendant charged with a sexual assault however, this doctrine can make a case more difficult if there is a compelling first complaint witness, even where the alleged victim may not testify or may not be a convincing witness.


Understanding the intricacies of this doctrine, as well as other important rules related to consent, impairment, and force are important to a good defense of sex crimes. To see if and how some of these rules may apply to charges against you or a loved one, contact an attorney today for a free consultation.

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