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Enticing a Child Under Sixteen

Massachusetts’s Child Enticement statute punishes a wide variety of behavior, and is much broader than the statute’s name seems to suggest. The offense itself consists of three elements, two of which provide a prosecutor with a number of theories under which to prosecute an individual accused of violating this statute.

First, the Commonwealth must prove that the alleged victim in the matter was a child under the age of sixteen or a person whom the defendant believed to be under the age of sixteen. The statute therefore applies not only to situations where the targeted individual is a minor, but also to the increasingly frequent occasions where the “alleged victim” is in reality a police officer posing as a juvenile online. It is therefore not a defense to this charge that what a defendant believed to be a child was in fact an adult, and a defendant in such a situation will be prosecuted just as vigorously as if he or she had been conversing with an individual under sixteen. The popularity and success of the television series To Catch a Predator has led many local police departments employ such a tactic, and countless individuals have fallen into the trap.

The Commonwealth must also prove that the defendant enticed the alleged victim to enter, exit, or remain within a vehicle, dwelling, building or outdoor space. This element applies to the more obvious types of enticement, such as attempting to lure a child into one’s car, but also to other, less secretive forms of enticement. For instance, this element would potentially be satisfied if a defendant arranged an encounter with a child in a crowded shopping mall, even if that child was accompanied by an unwitting parent or guardian.

The third and final element is the broadest. Under this element, the Commonwealth must demonstrate that the defendant enticed a child to engage in the behavior addressed by the second element with the intent to commit one or more of the following criminal offenses: Indecent Assault and Battery, Rape, Assault with Intent to Commit Rape, Inducing a Minor to Become a Prostitute, Open and Gross Lewdness, Disseminating Matter Harmful to a Minor, Posing a Child Under Eighteen in a State of Nudity or Sexual Conduct, Unnatural and Lascivious Acts with a Child under sixteen, Accosting or Annoying a Person of the Opposite Sex, Indecent Exposure, Engaging in Sexual Conduct for a Fee, and several other separate and distinct criminal offenses. This element requires only an intent on the part of the defendant to commit one or more of the above crimes; the Commonwealth is not required to show that one of these offenses occurred. This applies even when the alleged victim is not an undercover officer but instead a child under sixteen, as an intent alone, even if unfulfilled, can be the basis for the conviction. Such an intent is often deduced from the enticement itself; a defendant’s words, whether spoken or in an email or text message, are often strong evidence of what he or she intends to accomplish once the meeting with the child is arranged.

As can be imagined, the crime of Enticing a Child Under Sixteen is a very serious charge, and one that is not treated lightly by the prosecution. It is a felony that is punishable by up to five years in state prison, or two and a half years in the house of correction, and a $5,000 fine. It also requires registration as a sex offender for anyone found guilty. If you or someone you know has been charged with this offense, do not hesitate to call Attorney Daniel Cappetta for a free consultation.