Maryland has extremely detailed rape and sexual offense statutes due to the severity of these crimes, all of which are felonies. The crime is generally divided into four degrees, and other sexual offenses are divided into degrees as well. Being charged any other sexual offense carries with it a greater negative stigma than perhaps any other criminal charge, including homicide. Rape defendants can often feel as if the entire justice system is against them, including the judge, and a sex offense charge can have significant impacts on a person's reputation in the community.
Police officers, prosecutors, social workers, crime lab analysts, and even hospital staff that are faced with the task of investigating rape allegations can all be influenced by the public perception of the word rape. Nobody will argue that it is one of the most serious crimes, but the fact is that false accusations of rape do occur, and they are a reality that can have life altering consequences for the defendant and the defendant's family. This is why a defendant must retain representation by an experienced lawyer from the second that a allegation is made. Police can often acquire the most damaging evidence in a rape case from an unrepresented defendant, and frame this evidence in a way that is difficult to overcome. Most detectives are skilled interrogators that can manipulate the words of a suspect and witnesses. A criminal defense lawyer that is experienced in defending rape cases can limit damaging evidence that police officers may try to gather. The Herbst Firm's criminal defense lawyers understand how a rape case must be defended from start to finish and will vigorously defend any client charged with any sex offense.
First degree rape is the most severe charge. First degree charges can be filed against a defendant who engages in intercourse with another person without that person's consent, and who uses force or the threat of force. First degree also requires that the defendant either use a dangerous weapon during the course of the rape, inflict serious injury on the victim, or threaten the victim with serious injury or death. The maximum penalty for first degree rape or for attempted first degree rape in Maryland is life in prison. If the victim is a child under the age of 13 then the maximum penalty becomes life in prison without the possibility of parole. First degree may also carry enhanced penalties for repeat offenders, and minimum mandatory 25 year sentences in some circumstances.
In Maryland, second degree rape does not involve the use of a dangerous weapon or a threat of imminent bodily harm or death, but does require the use or the threat of the use of force. Second degree may also be charged if the defendant is alleged to have had intercourse with a mentally defective or physically helpless individual. Second degree rape on a physically helpless individual is often charged in date rape cases when the victim was alleged to have been incapacitated due to the effects of drugs or alcohol. The prosecuting lawyer must prove that the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was physically helpless at the time of intercourse. This knowledge requirement does not have to be proven with direct evidence and can be proved circumstantially. Second degree rape upon a physically helpless individual is an example of a crime that can result from a false accusation because there does not have to be direct evidence of force, and the victim need not testify to all the details of the alleged criminal act. The maximum penalty for second degree rape in Maryland is 20 years in prison, and it may also carry 15 year minimum mandatory prison sentences in some cases. Attempted second degree also carries a maximum 20 year prison sentence.
Maryland also classifies certain sexual offenses in the third or fourth degree but does not specifically call these offenses rape. A third degree sexual offense can involve sexual contact by force that does not include intercourse, or may involve intercourse with minors and adults over the age of 21. A child of 14 or 15 years cannot legally consent to a sexual act with an adult over the age of 21, and a child under 14 cannot legally consent to a sexual act with a person at least four years older than the child. A conviction of a sexual offense in the third degree in Maryland carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. A sexual offense in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail. Fourth degree sexual offenses are generally limited charges against an adult who has sexual intercourse of contact with a minor who was a student enrolled at a school where the adult has a position of authority. The minor in these types of cases is typically 16 or 17 years of age. Fourth degree sexual offenses can also be charged against and 18 or 19 year old adult who has intercourse or sexual contact with a 14 or 15 year old minor that is more than four years younger than the adult.
Rape and sexual offense statutes have a variety of specific requirements about what sort of evidence can be admitted at a rape trial as well as the specific instructions that a rape jury will hear. There are also a number of available motions to suppress and motions to dismiss that a criminal defense lawyer may file in a case. If you or someone you know has been charged or is being investigated for rape or any sexual offense, contact an experienced and skilled Baltimore lawyer immediately for a free consultation.