Maryland Rape and Sexual Assault Laws

Maryland criminalizes both rape and “sexual offenses”, which some states call sexual assault. Rape has two degrees or levels of offenses, while sexual offenses are divided into four degrees of offensive sexual activity. In general, criminal penalties in Maryland vary by degree based on “aggravating” factors (showing maliciousness and increasing guilt and punishment). Some of the aggravating factors are using force or violence, displaying weapons to a victim, or if the victim is particularly young or elderly.

The following table outlines Maryland’s rape and sexual assault laws.

Code Sections

Maryland Criminal Law Article, Sections:

What’s Prohibited?

The various forms of sexual assault that are prohibited in Maryland include:

  • Rape
    • First Degree – engaging in sexual intercourse with another without his or her consent by force, using weapons, strangling or inflicting serious physical injury, threatening with death, serious injury, or kidnapping, or committed with another’s help or during a burglary
    • Second Degree – engaging in vaginal intercourse with another 1) without his or her consent by force or threat, 2) with a mentally or physically incapacitated person (includes drunk, high, or unconscious) when the defendant knows of his or her condition, or 3) the victim is under 14 years old and the defendant is at least 4 years older than the victim
  • Sexual Offense
    • First Degree – engaging in a sexual act (oral or anal sex, or any object or part of one’s body penetrates the genitals or anus for sexual gratification, but not vaginal intercourse – that’s above in rape) by force, threat, or without consent while displaying a weapon, suffocating or physically injuring the victim, or threatening the victim with death, disfigurement, or serious physical injury, or committed with another’s help or during a burglary
    • Second Degree – engaging in a sexual act with another by 1) force or without his or her consent, 2) with a mentally or physically incapacitated person (includes drunk, high, or unconscious) when the defendant should know of his or her condition, or 3) the victim is under 14 and the defendant is at least 4 years older than the victim
    • Third Degree – includes any of the following:
      • engaging in sexual contact (intentionally touching the victim’s or defendant’s genital, anal, or other private parts for sexual gratification or abuse of either person) in any of the following situations:
        • Without consent while using a weapon, strangling or seriously injuring the victim, threatening the victim with death, serious injury, or kidnapping, or committed with another’s help OR
        • The victim is mentally or physically incapacitated (drunk or unconscious for example) and the defendant knows of his or her condition
        • The victim is under 14 years old and the defendant is at least 4 years older
        • Engaging in a sexual act (i.e. oral or anal sex) or vaginal sex with a 14 or 15 year old victim by a 21 year old or older defendant, AKA statutory rape
    • Fourth Degree – any of the following:
      • Engaging in sexual contact without the other’s consent
      • Engaging in a sexual act or vaginal sex with a 14 or 15 year old when the defendant is at least 4 years older
      • Engaging in a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal sex with a child under 18 who at the time of the sexual activity was a student enrolled in a school where the person was in a position of authority (i.e. a principal, coach, teacher, or counselor who’s at least 21 years old, employed by the school, and was in a supervisory position over the student)
Penalties

In Maryland, most statutes provide both the crime and the applicable penalty. The penalties for the crimes listed above are:

  • Rape
    • First Degree – Generally, life imprisonment is the maximum sentence for this crime or attempt of this crime. However, if a person commits the rape on a kidnapped child under 16, had a prior conviction for first-degree rape or sexual offense, or raped a child under 13 while over 18 years old then life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is the maximum sentence available.
      • Note: There’s a 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentence if the rape was by a person over 18 of a child under 13. The court can’t suspend any part of those 25 years neither is the person eligible for parole.
    • Second Degree – Generally, the penalty by up to 20 years in prison, including for attempted second-degree rape. However, if a person 18 years or older rapes a child under 13 the minimum prison term is 15 years and maximum is life in prison.
  • Sexual Offense
    • First Degree – Usually this crime or attempt of this crime is subject to life imprisonment. However, if a person was previously convicted of first-degree rape or sexual offense, commits the rape on a kidnapped child under 16, or the defendant is over 18 and the victim was under 13, then life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is the maximum sentence.
      • Note: The same 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentence applies here if the defendant was over 18 and the victim was a child under 13. None of the 25 years can be suspended by the court, nor is the person eligible for parole.
    • Second Degree – Usually, the punishment is a maximum of 20 years in prison, including for attempt. However, if a person 18 years or older sexual assaults a child under 13 the minimum prison term is 15 years and maximum is life in prison.
    • Third Degree – A felony with a sentence not more than 10 years in prison
    • Fourth Degree – Typically, this crime is a misdemeanor punished by not more than one-year imprisonment and a fine not more than $1,000. However, if a person previously committed a sex crime, the punishment is increased to 3 years in prison and a fine up to $1,000.

In addition, conviction of any of these sex crimes will require you to register as a sex offender in Maryland from 15 years to lifetime registration, depending on the crime. Being on the sex offender registry will greatly impact where you can live and work.

Note: State laws change constantly, it’s important to verify the laws you're researching by conducting your own legal research or contacting a qualified Maryland sex crimes attorney.

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Sex crimes are some of the most serious on the books. They are also some of the most difficult to prove, depending on the specifics of your case. If you are being investigated or have been charged with a sex crime in Maryland, you should know the law, know the facts, know your rights. Start this process today with a free attorney match with a sex crimes lawyer at no obligation.

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