Maryland has harsh penalties for sex offenses involving children

In Maryland, the penalties for sexual misconduct with a minor are severe and can have lifelong consequences.

In December last year, a 15-year-old boy went to an apartment expecting to get paid to do some cleaning. According to WBALTV, the man who had requested his services instead allegedly offered to pay the teenager to engage in sexual activity. The teen left, later telling investigators he was frightened. The man, a 59-year-old substitute teacher, is now facing charges of an attempted fourth-degree sex offense as well as the sexual solicitation of a minor.

Maryland has strict penalties for people convicted of sex offenses that involve minors. Understanding the implications of such charges is an important part of building a comprehensive defense.

The age of consent

One of the most important issues when discussing sex crimes with minors is the age of consent, which determines how old someone can be to legally agree to engaging in sexual activity. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the age of consent in Maryland is 16. There is no minimum age, which means there is no set age below which someone is unable to consent. However, Maryland law does state that there is a maximum four-year age differential between the older party and the younger party when the younger party is under 16.

Defining the offense

There are two ways someone may be charged with a sex crime against a minor. First, any unwelcome sexual conduct involving someone younger than 18 can result in a crime. Second, violating the age of consent can result in criminal charges. For example, someone in Maryland who is 18 and has sex with a 13-year-old could be charged with statutory rape, even if both parties agreed to the act and no force was used.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services lists more than two dozen sex crimes for which someone may be charged. Many, such as rape or attempted rape, can address incidents involving minors. However, there are charges specifically geared toward sexual acts involving children, such as the sexual solicitation of a minor, child pornography, the sexual abuse of a minor and child abduction.

Penalties for sex crimes with minors

Most sex crimes in Maryland are considered felonies. The prison sentences and fines associated with each offense will vary depending on factors such as the degree of the charge, the ages of both parties and if force was used during the act. A felony conviction alone carries significant, lifelong repercussions. Someone with a felony on record may have difficulty finding work and housing.

Sex offender registry

As the DPSCS points out, anyone who has been convicted of a sex crime or pleads guilty or no contest will have to register with the Maryland sex offender program. The length of time someone will be on the registry depends on the charges, which are divided into the following three tiers:

• Tier I crimes, such as possession of child pornography and fourth degree sex offense, merit 15 years.

• Tier II crimes, such as the sale of a minor, sexual solicitation of a minor and distribution of child pornography, merit 25 years.

• Tier III crimes, such as kidnapping, sexual abuse of a minor and first- or second-degree rape, merit a lifelong registration.

It should also be noted that lifelong registration will be applied to anyone who has a Tier I and Tier II convictions or two Tier II convictions.

Sex crimes charges are not to be taken lightly. Anyone with questions regarding Maryland's laws should consult with an attorney.

Keywords: Maryland, sex crime