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About Sex Offenses in Maryland
The following is part of an interview with Maryland sex offense lawyer Kush Arora, who answers questions about sex offense charges and prosecution in Maryland.
What makes sex offense cases in Maryland unique?
Kush Arora: Sex offenses are very serious and are prosecuted in a very serious manner no matter which state the crime was committed in. Because of the nature of sex offenses and the fact that they are considered the most heinous crimes, usually there is a special prosecution unit that is assigned to handling sex offense cases. Usually these prosecutors have special training, go to special courses, and only handle these kinds of cases so that they gain expertise in how to deal with rape kits, how to interview witnesses, and how to be sympathetic to the complaining party associated with the case.
Working with a defense attorney that has just as much experience as a sex offense prosecutor is important because these cases are not usually dismissed. These cases are usually prosecuted all the way through trial because prosecutors need to be sensitive not only to the complaint that their victims have made, but also to protecting the community from any future sex offenses the defendant might commit.
Do prosecutors prosecute these cases differently than other types of cases?
Kush Arora: The rules of evidence are the same no matter what. There aren't specific rules of evidence or procedure that apply in sex offense cases. One exception is the rape shield statute, which might not let a defense attorney know certain things about a victim’s past sexual history that might be fair game in another kind of criminal case. Other than that, there aren't many differences in terms of the ways in which the rules of evidence or the laws apply. They are generally the same.
The reason why sex offense cases are prosecuted with so much zeal is because a prosecutor wants to know that when they are going forward with a case, even if a jury or a judge decides to acquit or if there is not enough evidence, at least the prosecutor has done the best that they can to try to get a conviction. If, ultimately, another party decides that not enough evidence exists to find an individual guilty, that doesn't really fall on the prosecutor’s shoulders any longer because their office took all the necessary measures to try to move forward on the case.
Is there a special court in which sex offense cases are prosecuted?
Kush Arora: That depends on the particular sex offense charges the individual is facing. Because of the severity of sex offense cases, they usually get handled in Maryland’s circuit courts. However, fourth degree sex offense cases are considered less serious misdemeanors and are usually handled by district court prosecutors. That is because those acts are not necessarily associated with penetration, minors, or other things that escalate a case into a third, second, or first degree sex offense. Fourth degree sex offense cases usually involve acts such as nonconsensual touching, and while that is still a serious offense, it does not involve a permanent injury or a lasting effect that would require it to be given a heightened level of attention.