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Age of Consent

On Behalf of | Mar 4, 2024 | criminal defense |

A scandal involving a disgraced Catholic priest and an 18-year-old girl from a southern state brings to mind questions about the age of consent. The priest, who is 30, married the 2023 high school graduate and then fled to Italy with her.

This incident has sparked discussions about the age of consent — the age at which an individual is considered legally competent to consent to sexual activity. The age of consent ranges from 16 to 18 throughout the United States.

In Maryland, the age of consent is 16 years old. Having sex with someone under the age of 16 is statutory rape. It doesn’t matter if the child consents or initiates sexual activity.

However, there are “close-in-age” exceptions. These rules are commonly known as “Romeo and Juliet laws.” The exceptions are designed to prevent the prosecution of individuals engaged in consensual sexual activity when both participants are close in age to each other, and one or both are below the age of consent. This exemption applies 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.


The charges for violating Maryland’s sexual consent laws can range from statutory rape, which is a felony and punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment, to requiring the convicted person to register as a sex offender for 15 years. Registration as a sex offender can make it difficult to find jobs and housing.

Engaging in sexual acts against others without their consent can also lead to charges of sexual assault, assault, or battery.

A second conviction for a crime involving sex with underage children can lead to a lifetime prison sentence.

Maryland prosecutors are aggressive when prosecuting sex crimes, so charges should be taken seriously.


Maryland’s approach to the “mistake of age” defense in statutory rape cases is strict. “Mistake of age” refers to situations when the person accused of statutory rape claims that the minor lied about their age, looked older, or the circumstances of their encounter suggested the child was of age. For example, if they met at a party where people are presumed to be at least 18.

Maryland law states that a defendant’s belief that the child is old enough to consent is not a defense if the child is underage.

If you’re facing charges involving sexual contact with a minor, an Ocean City sex crimes attorney can help. The criminal defense attorneys at Maronick Law LLC have experience with Annapolis, Baltimore, Essex, Ocean City, Towson, White Marsh sexual assault matters.

Maronick Law LLC is open during the pandemic and continues to meet your legal needs. We can meet with you remotely if you have access to Zoom. You can contact the law office at 410-881-4022 or via our website for a free consultation.



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