With the school year in full swing, teachers, administrators and other school employees are likely navigating the school year a little differently. Nonetheless, there still remains a teacher-student relationship whether classes are in person or remote. What a teacher is not expecting during this vastly different school year is allegations of a sex crime with a student of theirs. Because of their power differential, even when the age difference is not much, this could still result in a sexual offense charge.
Sexual offense in the fourth degree
According to Maryland criminal code section 3-308, this offense occurs in any of the following situations:
- Engaging in sexual contact without the consent of the other person;
- Engaging in a sexual act or vaginal sex with a 14 or 15 year old with the accused being 4 or more years older than them;
- Engaging in a sexual act, sexual contact or vaginal sex with a person under the age of 18 who, at the time, was enrolled as a student and the accused is a person of authority at the school, such as a principal, coach, teacher or counselor who is at least 21 years of age, was employed by the school at the time of the act and was in a supervisory position over the student.
This means if a person of authority at a school had a supervisory position over a student and is at least 21 years of age, he or she could face fourth degree sexual offense charges.
Sexual offense in the fourth degree is considered a misdemeanor. If one is convicted of this crime, he or she could face imprisonment of up to a year and fine not more than $1000. However, if the accused has a criminal record of past sex crimes, the punishment could increase to 3 years of imprisonment. In addition to these penalties, a conviction of any sex crime requires an individual to register as a sex offender in Maryland from 15 years to life, depending on the severity of the crime.
As a teacher, facing criminal allegations of a sex offense involving a student does not only cause one to face serious penalties but also a situation that damages their personal and professional reputation. Thus, it is important that one considers the defense options available to them, which could help them reduce the charges or even dismiss them altogether.