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Sex crimes and the issue of evidence, P.1

In our previous post, we mentioned the current criminal case against a Baltimore public school teacher who was accused of sexually assaulting one of his students, and spoke about the importance of building a strong criminal defense case. Regardless of the nature of the allegations, prosecutors are required to provide sufficient evidence of the defendant’s guilt.

Different sex crimes, of course, have different statutory requirements which must be supported by evidence which is beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors must not only prove beyond a reasonable doubt that some sort of sexual activity took place between a victim and the defendant, but that it is the kind of sexual activity they allege took place. When the evidence doesn’t support the allegations, a defendant must work to highlight the deficiencies in the state’s case. 

One way to understand this idea is by looking at the differences between first- and second-degree rape. In the Baltimore public school teacher case, one of the charges was second-degree rape. Under Maryland law, first-degree rape is characterized by forced, nonconsensual intercourse along with an additional element. The additional element can be the use of a dangerous weapon, serious physical injury during the act, threats of imminent death or harm, aiding or abetting by another, or engaging in the act in the course of a burglary.

Second-degree rape, on the other hand, is characterized by forced, nonconsensual intercourse without the additional elements required for first-degree rape. In second-degree rape, there are also statutory elements defined for cases where the victim is under the age of 14, physically helpless, mentally defective or mentally incapacitated.

In addition to the differences presented by first-and second-degree rape, there are also differences between charges of rape and charges of sexual offense. In our next post, we’ll take a look at some of these differences and why they matter in criminal defense work.

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