Last time, we looked briefly at the difference between the statutory definitions of first- and second-degree rape here in Maryland. In addition to this, there are also differences between rape and sexual offense charges. In Maryland, first- and second-degree sexual offense charges are different from the corresponding rape charges in that they involve sexual acts rather than vaginal intercourse.
Going further, the elements of third-degree sexual offense are similar to first-degree sexual offense except that they involve allegations of nonconsensual sexual contact which is not necessarily forced. Fourth-degree sexual offense also involves nonconsensual sexual contact which is not necessarily forced, as well as sexual acts or intercourse in various other specific circumstances. Among these circumstances are cases where the sexual act or contact occurred between a student enrolled at a school where the defendant is in a position of authority.
Our point here is that each criminal allegation has very specific requirements, and that prosecutors have the duty to provide sufficient evidence to support each element of each particularly criminal charge. In building a strong defense case, it is important that a defendant scrutinize any weak points in the case when it comes to evidence. This is particularly important where DNA evidence is not available.
Getting back to what we said at the beginning of this series: criminal charges involving sexual offenses can raise strong emotions because of the nature of the allegations. This should not, however, prevent a defendant from working to defend him- or herself in court and taking advantage of the protections available in the criminal process. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney ensures one will have the best opportunity to present a solid defense.