Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules That Parent of Sixteen Year Old Cannot Stop Voluntary Sexual Relationship With an Adult
Today, in E.C.O. v. Compton, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court published a decision addressing the Massachusetts Restraining Order Law as well as the age of consent for sexual activity in the Commonwealth. The facts of the case are as follows:
About a year and a half ago a sixteen year old girl from Massachusetts was traveling overseas with some family members. She met the defendant who was twenty four at the time. The girl lied about her age. After returning to Massachusetts the girl and the defendant maintained contact through email, texts and social media. The communications revealed a level of intimacy between the parties that contained sexual undertones. The defendant and the girl planned to meet in Massachusetts in October of 2011. There were discussions about sex and an express intention to spend time together in a hotel room. In preparation of that meeting the defendant rented a hotel room. Learning of this plan the girl's father applied for a Restraining Order against the defendant. When the defendant arrived in Massachusetts he was served. The daughter never appeared in court. Her father did. He gave the judge copies of the electronic communications. The father conceded that the defendant never harmed or threatened the girl nor did he in any way coerce her to having sexual relations. The judge sitting in the Salem District Court extended the order for one year. The defendant appealed.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order. In doing so it restated the standard for "abuse", a necessary element for the issuance of a Restraining Order. In Massachusetts, the abuse necessary for a Restraining Order is defined as attempting to cause physical harm, causing physical harm, placing someone in fear of imminent serious physical harm or causing someone to engage in sexual relations. In this case the father agreed that the defendant did not harm his daughter nor did he attempt to do so. Furthermore, at not time did he force the girl to engage in involuntary sexual relations. Consequently the order should not have been extended. The Court reiterated that the age one can consent to having sex in Massachusetts is sixteen, the girl's age at all relevant times.
It is clear that the plaintiff in this case, the girl's father applied for the Restraining Order in an effort to keep his daughter from seeing the defendant. This action constitutes an improper use of the Massachusetts Restraining Order Statute. The statute was designed to prevent abuse, not to put a halt to relationships that parents find inappropriate. As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer it surprises me that this order issued in the first place. I imagine that the affidavit supporting the Restraining Order application referenced the intention of the defendant to supply the girl with alcohol, thus prompting the judge to issue the order to protect potential abuse.