When a former Alabama judge and would-be politician recently made a run for a seat in Congress, several women came forward with tales of being approached romantically by the man when they were teenagers. Among other conversations prompted by revelations of the women – most of whom said they were teenagers when they had been approached by the man at places including a nearby shopping mall — the nation was engaged in questions about the age of consent to engage in sexual activity and statutory rape.
Nationwide, the age of consent for sexual activity ranges from 16 to 18. In Maryland, the age of consent is 16 years old. Obviously, this means that individuals aged 15 or younger in Maryland are not legally able to consent to sexual activity and such activity may result in prosecution for statutory rape and other charges.
However, there is an important exception. Maryland has “close-in-age” exemptions. Close in age exemptions, commonly known as “Romeo and Juliet laws”, provide exceptions for children engaged in sexual activity who are close to the same age. The laws exist to prevent the prosecution of individuals who engage in consensual sexual activity when both participants are significantly close in age to each other and one or both partners are below the age of consent. As long as the age difference between the couple is within three years of each other and the minor is over the age of 14, a sexual relationship will not be considered statutory rape.
Penalties for Violating the Age of Consent in Maryland
In Maryland, there are a variety of laws prohibiting sexual activity or contact with minors under a certain age. It does not matter if the child consents to or initiates the sexual activity.
The severity of the criminal charge depends on the specifics of the acts committed and the ages of the perpetrator and victim. For example, statutory rape — rape in the second degree — is a felony and punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment.
A second conviction for a crime involving sex with underage children can lead to a lifetime prison sentence.
Engaging in sexual acts against others without their consent can also lead to charges of sexual assault, assault, or battery.
Civil laws can be a factor. A law that recently went into effect extends the time limit for filing a civil suit over being sexually abused as a child to 20 years after the victim becomes an adult or four years after the abuser is criminally convicted unless there is the position of “trust”. The current limit is seven years after reaching adulthood. The law went into effect on Oct. 1, 2017.
Sex Offender Registration
In Maryland, people who are convicted of statutory rape and related crimes are required to register as sex offenders for at least 15 years. Registered offenders must provide personal information to local law enforcement agents every few months. Although Maryland does not impose residency restrictions for sex offenders, sex offender registration can make it difficult, or even impossible, to find a job.
Mistake of Age in Maryland Statutory Rape Cases
In Maryland, as in most states, the fact that the defendant mistakenly believed the child to be of age is not a defense to statutory rape or a similar crime. For example, even if the child lied about his or her age to the defendant and others, that would provide no defense to the crime if, in fact, the child is underage.
If you are charged with a sex crime in Maryland, you should talk to a Maryland criminal defense attorney. A Baltimore sex crimes lawyer can get the charges reduced or work out a plea bargain, among other defense options. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling these cases with clients coming from Towson, Easton, Snow Hill, Bel Air, and other communities in Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202-288-0167, the law office at 410-934-3007 or via our website for a free consultation.