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Maryland Abuse Laws

The Maryland Code covers several forms of abuse: child abuse / neglect (Sections 3-601; 3-602.1), sexual abuse of a minor (Section 3-602), sale of a minor (Section 3-603), abuse/neglect of a vulnerable adult (Sections 3-604; 3-605), and hazing (Section 3-607). With the exception of hazing, abuse carries heavy penalties of five to 40 years in prison depending on the specific crime and the circumstances surrounding it. If you have been charged with any of these abuse offenses, you should consult with a Maryland abuse lawyer who has experience handling similar criminal cases in Maryland courts. Learn more here.

Child Abuse; Neglect of a Minor Sections 3-601; 3-602.1

Child abuse is broken down into two degrees: first degree child abuse and second degree child abuse. First degree child abuse is distinguished by the fact that apart from the child abuse, the abuse leads to serious physical injury of the minor or death. Section 3-601(b)(1).

First Degree Child Abuse Section 3-601(b)

To be guilty of child abuse, there are three major elements that must be satisfied. First, the person committing the child abuse must be:

  • A family member (related by blood, adoption, or marriage)
  • A household member (a person living with the minor or who is regularly present in the minor’s home)
  • An individual with permanent or temporary custody, care, or responsibility for supervising the minor

Second, the person must cause abuse to the minor, as defined in Section 3-601(a)(2) as:

  • Cruel or inhuman treatment, or a malicious act;
  • Which results in physical injury; and
  • Demonstrates a threat or harm to the minor’s health or welfare.

Third, the abuse must result in “severe physical injury” or death, where severe physical injury is defined in Section 3-601(a)(5) as:

  • Starvation
  • Brain injury or bleeding within the skull (e.g., a concussion)
  • Any other physical injury that:
    • Puts the minor at a substantial risk of death
    • Causes permanent or serious lingering disfigurement, impairment of bodily functions, or loss of function in any body part

If a person meets these three requirements, the person is guilty of the felony of first degree child abuse. Section 3-601(b)(2). If the child abuse caused the minor’s death, then the person faces the penalties of a felony conviction with up to 40 years in prison. Section 3-601(b)(2)(ii). If the child abuse did not result in the death of the minor, then the person faces a felony conviction with up to 25 years in prison. Section 3-601(b)(2)(i).

Second Degree Child Abuse Section 3-601(d)

This crime has two elements that must be satisfied. First, the person committing the crime must be a family member (which includes parents), a household member, or an individual with temporary or permanent custody, care, or responsibility for supervising the minor. Section 3-601(d)(1). Second, the person must cause abuse to the minor, as defined in Section 3-601(a)(2) as:

  • Cruel or inhuman treatment, or a malicious act;
  • Which results in physical injury; and
  • Demonstrates a threat or harm to the minor’s health or welfare.

An individual who satisfies these two elements is guilty of the felony of second degree child abuse– punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Section 3-601(d)(2).

Repeat Offenders: Section 3-601(c)

Any person who has a prior conviction of child abuse and is guilty of child abuse (whether in the first or second degree) faces a felony conviction with up to 25 years in prison. Section 3-601(c)(1). However, if the child abuse resulted in the death of the minor, then the person faces a felony conviction with up to 40 years in prison. Section 3-601(c)(2). Lastly, it is important to note that the penalties resulting from being convicted of this crime may be imposed as either (1) separate from and consecutive to penalties for any crime arising from the same act that violated this section, or (2) concurrent with a sentence for any crime arising from the same act. Section 3-601(e). This means that it is possible to serve sentences from the two crimes (e.g., child abuse and murder-related offense) at the same time or to serve the sentences one after the other.

Neglect of a Minor Section 3-602.1

The crime of neglect of a minor has two elements that must be satisfied for a person to be guilty. First, under Section 3-602.1(b), the person committing the crime must be either:

  • A family member (related by blood, adoption, or marriage)
  • A household member (a person living with the minor or who is regularly present in the minor’s home)
  • An individual with permanent or temporary custody, care, or responsibility for supervising the minor

The second element requires the perpetrator to “neglect” the minor, with neglect defined in Section 3-602.1(a)(5) as the (i) intentional (ii) failure to provide the minor with the necessary resources or assistance for the physical needs or mental health of the minor, (iii) which puts the victim at serious risk of harm to the victim’s physical health, or puts the victim at serious risk of mental injury.

Mental injury is also specifically defined to mean the significant impairment of the victim’s psychological or mental ability to function. Section 3-602.1(a)(4). However, the term neglect as used in this section does not include a failure to provide necessary resources or care resulting from a lack of financial resources or as a result of homelessness.Section 3-602.1(a)(5)(ii). If a person is guilty of neglect of a minor, then the guilty party faces a misdemeanor conviction with up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Section 3-602.1(c).

Sexual Abuse of a Minor: Section 3-602

Sexual abuse of a minor has two major elements that must be satisfied for an individual to be guilty of the crime. First, the person committing the crime must be a family member, household member, or a person who has temporary or permanent custody, care, or responsibility for supervising the minor. Section 3-602(b). These are the same requirements for the first element of child abuse as well, with the same definitions for family member and household member.

Second, the person must cause sexual abuse to the victim, with sexual abuse defined in Section 3-602(a)(4)(i) as any act, regardless of whether the victim sustains physical injuries, that involves sexual exploitation or molestation. Specifically, sexual abuse is defined in Section 3-602(a)(4)(ii) to include:

  • Rape
  • Sodomy
  • Incest
  • Sexual offense in any degree
  • Any unnatural or perverted sexual practices

If an individual is guilty of sexual abuse of a minor, the individual faces a felony conviction with up to 25 years in prison. Section 3-602(c).

Sale of a Minor: Section 3-603

The crime of sale of a minor falls under Maryland Statute Subtitle 6 (Abuse and Other Offense Conduct), although it does not specifically include abuse. A person is guilty of sale of a minor if the person (1) barters, sells, or trades a minor, or merely offers to do such, (2) in exchange for property, money, or anything of value. Section 3-603(a).

If a person is guilty of this crime, then the person faces conviction of a misdemeanor with penalties of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 for each violation of this section. Section 3-603(b).

Abuse / Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult: Sections 3-604; 3-605

Under Maryland state laws, it is also possible to abuse or neglect a vulnerable adult. This crime is broken down into two degrees: abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in the first degree (Section 3-604) and abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in the second degree (Section 3-605). The distinction between the two is that first degree abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult must result in serious physical injury or death of the victim, or it must involve sexual abuse of the victim.

First Degree Abuse / Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult: Section 3-604

There are several elements to this crime that must be satisfied to establish guilt. First, the person committing the crime must be either:

  • A caregiver (someone with a duty to care for a vulnerable adult as a result of a contractual agreement to provide care)
  • A family member (related to the vulnerable adult through blood, marriage, adoption, or marriage of a child)
  • A household member (an individual who lives with the vulnerable adult or is a regular presence in the victim’s home)
  • Any person who has permanent or temporary care or responsibility to supervise the vulnerable adult

The second element is that the person committing the crime must cause abuse or neglect of the victim. Section 3-604(b)(1). Abuse means any (1) malicious act or cruel or inhumane treatment (2) where the victim sustains physical pain or injury (3) when the act or treatment reflects circumstances under which the victim’s health or welfare is harmed or threatened. Section 3-604(a)(2)(i). Abuse in this section does include sexual abuse but does not include medical procedures ordered by an authorized health care provider who is acting within the scope of the health care provider’s practice. Section 3-604(a)(2). Neglect is defined under Section 3-604(a)(7)(i) as the (1) intentional (2) failure to provide necessary resources and assistance for the physical needs of the victim. This includes:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • A toilet and assistance using the toilet (if necessary)
  • Necessary medical treatment
  • Shelter
  • Supervision

Third, it is necessary for the victim to be a vulnerable adult– defined in Section 3-604(a)(10) as an adult without the capacity, whether physical or mental, to provide for the adult’s own daily needs. The fourth and last element is that the abuse or neglect must either:

  • Result in the victim’s death
  • Involve sexual molestation or exploitation of the victim (sexual abuse)
  • Cause serious physical injury to the victim, which includes any physical injury that:
    • Puts the victim at serious risk of death
    • Causes permanent or serious lingering disfigurement, impairment of bodily functions, or loss of function in any body part

If all of the elements above are met, then the person is guilty of having abused or neglected a vulnerable adult in the first degree. This crime is a felony and the guilty party faces penalties including a felony conviction with up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Section 3-604(c).

Second Degree Abuse / Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult: Section 3-605

Second degree abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult has almost all of the same elements of first degree abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult with the exception that the abuse or neglect did not cause the death or serious physical injury, or involve the sexual abuse, of the victim. Section 3-605(b). If an individual is guilty of second degree abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, which is a misdemeanor, then the accused faces with up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Section 3-605(c).

Hazing: Section 3-607

The state of Maryland considers hazing to be a form of abuse, and as such it is a misdemeanor crime. There are numerous elements to this crime. If an individual (1) intentionally or recklessly (2) acts in a way or creates a situation where (3) a student is subjected to potential serious bodily injury (4) for the purpose of initiating the student into a student organization of a school, college, or university, then the individual is guilty of hazing. Section 3-607(a). A person who is guilty of hazing faces up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. Section 3-607(b). Most notably, a defendant charged with hazing cannot use the victim’s implied or express consent to hazing as a defense. Section 3-607(c).