Maryland Sex Offense Lawyer

Getting arrested and charged with a sex offense in Maryland can have devastating consequences. These are serious offenses that often can result in substantial prison time, loss of liberty, and require the defendant to register for the Maryland sex offender registry for up to life. To understand how Maryland sex offenses work, its first important to understand how the law defines key terms.

A sexual act is defined (paraphrasing) as an action where any object penetrates another person’s genital area regardless of how slight and a reasonable person construes that action’s purpose to be sexual gratification or abuse. This definition also includes analingus, cunnilingus, fellatio, and intercourse. The law specifically excludes penetration when done for a commonly accepted medical reason.

The law defines sexual contact as the same as above when done with a part of a person’s body that is not the penis, tongue, or mouth. In addition, the law excludes the above conduct when done for a recognized medical reason and when it’s a “common expression of familial or friendly expression.” The law further defines “intercourse” as penetration no matter how slight and regardless of whether semen emits.

First Degree Rape in Maryland

The most serious Maryland sex offense is First Degree Rape. This crime involves using force, the threat of force, without consent, to engage in vaginal intercourse. In addition, the defendant must also do one of the following three things. One, use a dangerous weapon or other object the victim believes within reason is dangerous. Two, inflict serious injury including engage in strangulation, suffocation, or disfigurement during the commission of the crime. Or, three, threaten that the victim will be subjected to the above or be kidnapped. In addition, for the third scenario, the defendant must also commit the crime with an accomplice or commit the crime in while engaging in a burglary. The penalty for first degree rape in Maryland is life imprisonment.

Three scenarios can enhance the maximum penalty for this charge. First, if the crime occurs as part of the kidnapping of a child under the age of 16, then the penalty can be life imprisonment without any chance of parole. Second, if the accused has a prior conviction for the same offense, then the maximum penalty is life without parole. Finally, if the defendant is at least 18 years of age and they commit the crime against someone under 13, then the max penalty is 25 years to life imprisonment without parole and includes a mandatory term of imprisonment for 25 years.

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Second Degree Rape in Maryland

Second degree rape in Maryland is a sexual offense similar to first degree with a few key differences. First, going back to the above definition, second degree rape involves the commission of a sexual act rather than sexual penetration. Accordingly, to convict someone for rape in the second degree, the state must prove that the defendant engaged in a sexual act against the victim. The state must also prove the defendant engaged in one of the three scenarios. One, the act occurred while the victim did not consent because the defendant used either force or the threat of force. Two, the defendant committed such an act against a person who is mentally defective, incapacitated, or physically helpless. In addition, the defendant must have also known or should have known about the person’s incapacitation. This situation describes, in part, what most people describe as “date rape” where someone forces themselves on a person who is passed out from drugs or alcohol. Finally, the third scenario occurs where the victim is 14 years old or younger and the defendant is at least four years older. Maryland, like other states, includes this four-year age difference requirement as what some call Romeo and Juliet laws.

The penalties for second degree rape in Maryland are also severe. The maximum penalty for the offense is 20 years imprisonment. In addition, the law enhances the penalties for situations where the victim is less than 13 years old and the defendant is over 18 years old. In that situation, the maximum penalty is 15 years to life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.

Third Degree Sexual Offense

Going back to the above definitions, third degree rape involves situations where sexual contact rather than engaging in a sex act like penetration or cunnilingus. The same prohibitions apply as first and second degree: lack of consent, using force, violence, or the threat of force, using a weapon or dangerous object, injuring the victim, threatening the victim, being aided by another person. In addition, engaging in sexual contact with someone who is passed out or incapacitated or mentally defective falls within third degree. It also involves engaging in sexual contact with someone younger than 14 years old while the defendant is four years or older. Finally, it covers situations where the victim is fourteen or fifteen and the defendant is 21 or older. The maximum penalty for this offense is ten years in prison.

Fourth Degree Sexual Offense

In Maryland, a 4th degree sexual offense is not a felony but rather a misdemeanor crime with a maximum penalty up to one year in jail. However, if the accused has a prior conviction for any sex crime, then the maximum penalty is 3 years in jail. Even for someone with a prior offense, the crime is still a misdemeanor offense. The main difference for fourth degree involves the absence of certain conduct described above.

This crime involves engaging in sexual contact rather than a sexual act without the consent of the other person. A common scenario would involve a defendant grabbing another person’s breast or genitals without their consent where in some jurisdictions this is described as sexual assault. In addition, when the victim is four years younger and the defendant is under 21 and engages in any sexual contact with someone who is 14 years old or 15 years old, consent does not matter. Another scenario involves a person four years older than the victim but less than 21 and engages in consensual sexual intercourse. Many people refer to this crime as “statutory rape.” Finally, the last scenario involves a defendant over the age of 21 has sexual contact, intercourse, or engages in a sexual act with someone under 18.

Hiring a Maryland Sexual Offense Attorney

As previously stated, Maryland criminal law takes sexual offenses extremely seriously. Prosecutors aggressively pursue these charges and the consequences can literally be life in prison without the possibility of parole. In addition, many defendants charged with sexual offenses may not be released while the charges are pending and immediately lose their liberty upon arrest. In any criminal charge, its important to hire a qualified and experienced criminal defense lawyer. However, when one’s life is at stake with in such a serious situation, hiring a lawyer takes on even more importance. If you or friend or loved one has been arrested or is under investigation for a Maryland sexual offense, contact Attorney Morgan E. Leigh today for a thorough consultation.
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