Maine Sexual Battery Laws

Maine’s laws criminalize sexual battery (sexual relations by force) as well as nonconsensual sexual contact and sexual contact when the parties are in certain relationships.

For more general information on sex crimes, see Sexual Battery Laws and Penalties.

Gross Sexual Assault

A person commits the crime of gross sexual assault in Maine by engaging in a sex act (oral or anal sex or direct genital contact) when the victim does not consent or is incapable of consenting.

Aggravated gross sexual assault

Acts of gross sexual assault are punished more severely where:

  • the victim submits as a result of compulsion (force or threats of force, injury, or kidnapping), or
  • the victim is under the age of 14 and is not married to the defendant.

(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § § 251, 253.)

A defendant who causes injury to the victim or makes offensive physical conduct with the victim’s body can also be charged with assault in Maine.

For more information on assault, see Assault in Maine, Aggravated Assault in Maine, and Elevated Aggravated Assault in Maine.

Other types of gross sexual assault

Sex acts are also gross sexual assault when:

  • the defendant has given the victim a drug or intoxicant impairing the victim’s self-control
  • the defendant uses threats to compel or cause the victim to submit to the act
  • the victim is mentally disabled, the defendant knows of the disability or the disability is apparent, and the disability renders the victim unable to consent to or understand the act
  • the victim is unconscious or physically incapable of resisting
  • the victim is under the age of 18 and the defendant is the victim’s parent or guardian, or
  • the victim is a prisoner, probationer, or parolee, and the defendant has official authority over the victim.

(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 253.)

For example, a defendant who causes a person to engage in oral sex by threatening to release explicit photos of the victim could be convicted of gross sexual assault.

Sexual Activity Between People Certain Relationships

Maine law also criminalizes sex acts when there is a particular relationship between the victim and the defendant, even when both people consent to the act.

The following people can be convicted of the crime of gross sexual assault by engaging in a sex act under the following circumstances:

  • a teacher or school employee with a minor student over whom the teacher has authority
  • a teacher or employee with a minor resident of a day care, youth facility, or drug treatment center over whom the teacher has authority
  • a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed social worker with a patient or client
  • a person who operates or works for an organization that offers disability services with a person with an intellectual disability or autism, if the defendant is not also person with an intellectual disability or autism
  • a person who operates or works for an organization that offers disability services with a person with a mental disability, or
  • an employed caretaker with a person who is unable to care for him or herself.

(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 253.)

For example, a high school teacher who has sex with a 16-year-old student who is in the teacher’s class would be guilty of gross sexual assault.

Unlawful Sexual Conduct

It is also a crime in Maine to engage in unlawful sexual conduct (genital or anal touching, short of a sex act) with another when the victim:

  • has not consented
  • submits as a result of compulsion
  • is unconscious or otherwise physically unable to resist
  • is under the age of 18 and the defendant is the victim’s parent or guardian.
  • is under the age of 14 and the defendant is at least three years older
  • is age 14 or 15 and the defendant is at least ten years older
  • is mentally disabled, the defendant knows of the disability or the disability is apparent, and the disability renders the victim unable to consent to or understand the act, or
  • and the defendant are in a relationship where sexual activity is prohibited.

In addition to the those relationships listed above, sexual conduct is also criminalized between a jailer and prisoner, and a teacher over the age of 21 and a student under the age of 18 who is enrolled in the same school or district.

Unlawful sexual conduct is punished more severely if the act includes digital penetration.

(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § § 251, 255-A.)

For example, a 25-year-old who engages in heavy petting with a 14-year-old could be convicted of unlawful sexual conduct, as could a person who engages in sexual conduct with a person who is unconscious.

Unlawful Sexual Touching

A person commits unlawful sexual touching by touching another’s breasts, buttocks, or groin for a sexual purpose under any of the circumstances that can give rise to a charge for unlawful sexual conduct.

(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 260.)

For example, a psychiatrist who fondles a patient could be convicted of unlawful sexual touching, as could a person who touches someone without the other person’s consent.

Defenses

If a defendant is charged with gross sexual assault on the theory that the defendant engaged in a sex act with someone after giving the person a drug (or other intoxicant), it is a defense that the victim voluntarily consumed the drug. This defense does not apply if the victim is 14 or 15 years old or if the victim is the defendant’s patient and the drug was purportedly administered for medical reasons.

(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 253.)

For example, if a defendant offered an adult victim at a party a drug that impaired the victim's self control, and the victim willingly took the drug, and then they engaged in sexual intercourse while the victim was impaired, then the defendant would not be guilty of gross sexual assault.

Marital rape defense

It is also a defense to any sex crime that the defendant and the victim are married, and the activity was consensual, when the charges are based on:

  • the age of the victim, so long as the victim is not under the age of 14, or
  • the relationship of the parties.

People who are legally married by living apart are not considered “married” for purposes of this defense.

(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § § 251, 253, 255-A, 260.)

For more information on the marital rape exemption, see Maine Marital Rape Laws.

Punishment

Aggravated gross sexual assault is a Class A crime, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. Gross sexual assault based on the relationship between the parties is a Class C crime, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Otherwise, gross sexual assault is a Class B crime, punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $20,000.

Generally, unlawful sexual conduct is a Class D crime (punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000) if there is no digital penetration and a Class C crime if there is penetration.

Unlawful sexual conduct by compulsion is a Class B crime if there is penetration and a Class C crime if there is not. Unlawful sexual conduct is also punished more severely in cases of incest, or when the victim is a child under the age of 14.

Unlawful sexual touching is a class D crime.

Sexual misconduct by a school employee with a student in the same school or district (but not under the employee’s authority) is a Class E crime, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § § 253, 255-A, 260, 1252, 1301.)

Sex Offender Registration

Under Maine’s newest version of the sex offender registration law (effective January 1, 2013), some (but not all) people who are convicted of gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact are required to register as sex offenders for at least 10 years.

(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 34-A, § § 11273, 11282, 11285.)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

Maine’s sex crime laws are complicated. If you are charged with a sex crime, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney who can explain how your case is likely to be treated in court and what to do to present the strongest possible defense.

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