What are the Statutory Rape Laws in Maryland?
There is no specific crime called statutory rape in Maryland, but there are a variety of laws prohibiting sexual activity or contact with minors under a certain age. Before getting into the details of these laws it is important to understand the difference between rape and all other sexual acts. By definition, rape only involves non-consensual vaginal intercourse. All other illegal acts fall under the four sex offenses categories with first degree being the most serious and fourth degree being the least. The most common crime that is similar to statutory rape is sexual offense in the fourth degree. This law prohibits anyone from having intercourse or engaging in a sexual act with a 14 or 15-year old if the person is more than 4 years older than the victim. In other words, a person 19 (or 18 if their birthday is later) or older cannot have intercourse or engage in an act with a 14-year old, and a 20+ year old (or 19 if their birthday is later) cannot do anything sexual with a 15 year old. Consensual sexual contact only falls under this statute if the defendant was 21+ and in a position of authority (an employee such as a teacher, coach or counselor) at a school where the victim was enrolled. While this is a misdemeanor that only carries a 1-year maximum jail sentence it does carry the possibility of being a sex offender and having to register for 15 years upon conviction. In addition, this charge is often accompanied by a second degree assault charge that has a 10-year maximum jail sentence.
Third degree sexual offense is another common crime that is often incorrectly called statutory rape. For this crime it is helpful to understand the definition of a few important terms associated with these laws. A sexual act can include anal or oral sex, or penetration by another means. Sexual contact on the other hand does not include an act involving penetration. Rather, it includes touching of the intimate areas of either the victim or the defendant. It is a third degree sex offense to engage in sexual contact with a minor under the age of 14 if the person is at least 4 years older than the victim. Juveniles under the age of 18 can also be charged with this offense if the victim is more than 4 years younger. This offense also prohibits a person 21 or older from engaging in a sexual act or vaginal intercourse with a minor that is 14 or 15. The maximum punishment for this crime is 10 years in prison, and the possibility of having to register for 25 years.
Sexual offense in the second degree prohibits a person 18 or older from engaging in a sexual act with a minor under the age of 13. A violation of this law could result in a maximum punishment of life in prison, and upon conviction a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 15 years without parole. There is also a provision in this offense that prohibits anyone from engaging in a sexual act with a minor under the age of 14 if the person is more than 4 years older than the victim. This provision has a maximum penalty of 20 years, and does not carry a mandatory minimum jail sentence. A conviction of either provision of this statute will result in a lifetime registry requirement. First degree sexual offense is not easily confused with statutory rape because it requires the use of violence or the threat of violence, but as the most serious of the four offenses it carries a possible 25-year mandatory minimum and a maximum sentence of life without parole.