In Maine, the age of consent is 16, and people who engage in sexual activity with children who are age 15 or younger may be convicted of statutory rape (also called sexual abuse, unlawful sexual conduct or touching, or gross sexual assault). Maine also has special rules that apply to teachers and school employees.
In statutory rape cases in Maine, the most important fact is the age of the victim or the relationship between the child and the adult. The defendant can be convicted of a crime even if the child consents to or initiates the sexual activity.
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:
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, §§ 251, 253 (2018).)
For example, engaging in sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old is gross sexual assault.
Sexual abuse of a minor. Under Maine’s laws, a defendant commits sexual abuse by engaging in a sex act with:
The crime is punished more severely if the defendant is at least ten years older than the child. For example, a 20-year-old who has sex with a 14-year-old could be convicted of sexual abuse.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 254 (2018).)
Unlawful sexual conduct. A person in Maine commits the crime of unlawful sexual conduct by engaging in sexual (genital or anal) touching, short of a sex act, when:
Unlawful sexual conduct is punished more severely if the act includes penetration or if the victim is under the age of 12.
(Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, §§ 251, 255-A (2018).)
Unlawful sexual touching. A person commits the crime of 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. For example, a teacher who fondles a student's breasts commits unlawful sexual touching. (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 260 (2018).)
People in Maine who lure or try to lure children under the age of 14 to engage in sexual conduct can be convicted of child enticement, even if no sexual conduct actually occurs. (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 259-A (2018).)
Defendants charged with statutory rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as “Someone else committed this crime,” or “The alleged conduct did not occur.” One or more of the following defenses may also apply.
It is a defense to a charge of gross sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor, unlawful sexual conduct, or sexual touching that the defendant and the victim are married. This defense is part of the marital rape exemption. Spouses who are legally married but living apart are not considered “married” for purposes of this defense. (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, §§ 251, 253, 255-A, 260 (2018).)
Many states have enacted “Romeo and Juliet” exceptions, named for William Shakespeare’s young lovers, to protect young people from criminal charges as a result of consensual sexual activity with other teens. Maine’s sexual abuse of a minor law provides an exemption for consensual sexual contact between someone who is 14 or 15 years old and someone who is no more than five years older. For example, a 17-year-old who engages in a consensual sex act with a 14-year-old could not be prosecuted for a crime. (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 254 (2018).)
Engaging in a sex act with someone under the age of 14 is typically a serious crime. A conviction for having sex with someone younger than 14 years old can result in a sentence of up to 30 years in prison and fines of as much as $50,000.
In most states, it is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the defendant mistakenly believed the child to be of age, even if the child concealed or misstated his or her age and the mistake was a reasonable one. However, in Maine it is a defense to a charge of sexual abuse of a minor age 14 or 15 that the defendant believed the child to be at least 16 years old. The defendant’s belief must be reasonable. For example, a man who knew that a girl was a freshman in high school and could not drive may not be able to successfully assert that he reasonably believed the girl to be over the age of 16. (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, § 254 (2018).)
Gross sexual assault against a child under the age of 14 is a Class A crime, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. Otherwise, gross sexual assault is a Class C crime, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, §§ 253, 1252, 1301 (2018).)
Sexual abuse of a minor age 14 or 15 is a Class D crime, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. If the defendant is at least ten years older than the child, it is a Class C crime, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of as much as $5,000. Sexual abuse by a teacher or school employee is a Class D or 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, §§ 254, 255-A, 260, 1252, 1301 (2018).)
The punishment for unlawful sexual conduct is varies from Class A to Class D, depending on the age of the victim and whether penetration occurs. Unlawful sexual touching is a class D crime. (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-A, §§ 255-A, 260, 1252, 1301 (2018).)
Under Maine’s sex offender registration law, many people who are convicted of sex crimes against children are required to register as sex offenders. (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 34-A, §§ 11273, 11282, 11285 (2018).)
Maine has complicated sex offense laws, and they can change at any time. If you are charged with a crime as a result of sexual conduct with a child under the age of consent, you should talk to a Maine criminal defense attorney. An attorney familiar with the state’s laws and the local judges and prosecutors will be able to tell you how your case is likely to fare in court and what you can do to protect your rights and mount the strongest possible defense.
If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, contact Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for online help and local resources.
Updated September 13, 2018