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Maryland Sexual Offense Laws

The crime of sexual offense is broken down into four degrees, distinguished by the sexual acts or contact committed and whether the crime was violent. If you have been charged with a sexual offense, please contact a Maryland sexual offense lawyer (or learn how a lawyer can help here).

Sexual Offense in the First Degree Section 3-305

First degree sexual offense is a similar crime to first degree rape, with the main distinction involving the sexual acts (see definition above) rather than vaginal intercourse. There are two main elements required to establish guilt for this crime.

First, a person must (1) engage in a sexual act with the victim (2) without the victim’s consent (3) through the use of force or the threat of force. Section 3-305(a)(1). Second, under Section 3-305(a)(2), the perpetrator must also do one of the following:

  • Use, brandish, or display a dangerous weapon or a physical object the victim reasonably believes is a dangerous weapon;
  • Inflict serious injury on the victim or another person while committing the sexual offense. This also includes suffocating, strangling, or disfiguring the victim;
  • Threaten the victim, or otherwise put the victim in fear, that either the victim or another individual will be killed, strangled, suffocated, disfigured, or be subjected to serious physical injury or kidnapping;
  • Commit the sexual offense with the assistance of another person; or,
  • Commit the sexual offense as part of a first, second, or third degree burglary;

There are also enhanced penalties when the sexual offense occurs (1) as part of a child kidnapping where the victim is under 16 years of age (see Section 3-503(a)(2)), or when (2) the perpetrator is at least 18 years old and the victim is under the age of 13 years. Section 3-305(b)-(c).

If a person violates this section then that person is guilty of sexual offense in the first degree, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. Section 3-305(d)(1).

If a person violates this section as part of a child kidnapping where the victim is under 16 years of age (see Section 3-503(a)(2)), then that person is guilty of felony first degree sexual offense and faces the penalty of up to life without possibility of parole in prison. Section 3-305(d)(2).

If a person with a prior conviction of first degree rape or first degree sexual offense and that person is guilty of felony first degree sexual offense, that person faces up to life without the possibility of parole in prison. Section 3-305(d)(3).

If a person violates this section under circumstances where the perpetrator is at least 18 years old and the victim is younger than 13 years of age, then that person is guilty of felony sexual offense in the first degree and faces 25 years to life without the possibility of parole in prison, with a mandatory minimum 25-year prison sentence. Section 3-305(d)(4).

Sexual Offense in the Second Degree Section 3-306

Second degree sexual offense is a sexual crime that is very similar to second degree rape, with the main distinction involving the nature of sexual activity that occurs during the crime (sexual acts rather than vaginal intercourse). Accordingly, second degree sexual offense is a crime that is comprised of two main components.

First, the perpetrator must engage in a sexual act with the victim. Section 3-306(a).

Second, under Section 3-306(a) the perpetrator must engaged in the sexual act(s) under at least one of the following sets of circumstances:

  1. The act(s) occurred without the consent of the victim through the perpetrator’s use of force or threat of force.
  2. The victim is a mentally defective individual, or was mentally incapacitated or physically helpless at the time of the offense– a fact that the perpetrator knew or reasonably should have known at the time when the sexual act occurred.
  3. The victim is younger than 14 years old and the perpetrator is at least four years older than the victim.

If a person violates this section, that person is guilty of the felony of second degree sexual offense and faces a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Section 3-306(c)(1). However, if a person over 18 years old violates this section and the victim is younger than 13, then that person is guilty of felony second degree sexual offense and faces 15 years to life in prison, with a mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentence. Section 3-306(c)(2).

Sexual Offense in the Third Degree Section 3-307

Third degree sexual offense is a crime which is very similar to second degree sexual offense regarding circumstances surrounding the offense, but is distinguished by the nature of the sexual activity – sexual contact rather than a sexual act. However, sexual offense in the third degree also covers some situations involving sexual acts that do not meet the requirements of a second or first degree sexual offense.

It is a sexual offense in the third degree if any person (1) takes part in sexual contact with the victim (2) without the victim’s consent, (3) and one of the following is true:

  • The perpetrator uses, brandishes, or displays a deadly weapon or a physical object the victim reasonably believes to be a deadly weapon;
  • The perpetrator disfigures, strangles, suffocates, or otherwise inflicts serious physical injury on the victim or another person while committing the sexual offense;
  • The perpetrator threatens the victim or otherwise places the victim in fear that the victim or another individual known to the victim will be killed, subject to serious physical injury, or kidnapped; or
  • The perpetrator is aided and abetted by another person while committing the sexual offense. Section 3-307(a)(1).

It is also considered sexual offense in the third degree if the perpetrator (1) engages in sexual contact with the victim and (2) the victim is a mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless individual – a fact that (3) the perpetrator knows or reasonably should know at the time of the offense. Section 3-307(a)(2).

Sexual offense in the third degree also covers situations where a person (1) engages in sexual contact with a victim younger than 14 years of age (2) while the perpetrator is at least four years older than the victim. Section 3-307(a)(3).

If a person (1) engages in a sexual act with a victim who is 14 or 15 years old (2) and the person performing the act is 21 years old or older, then that person is guilty of sexual offense in the third degree. Section 3-307(a)(4).

Lastly, it is considered a sexual offense in the third degree when a person (1) who is at least 21 years old (2) has vaginal intercourse with a victim who is 14 or 15 years old. Section 3-307(a)(5).

If an individual violates this section, then that individual is guilty of sexual offense in the third degree– a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Section 3-307(b).

Sexual Offense in the Fourth Degree Section 3-308

There are multiple kinds of conduct that qualify as a sexual offense in the fourth degree.

First, any person who (1) engages in sexual contact with another individual (2) without that individual’s consent is guilty of a sexual offense in the fourth degree. Section 3-308(b)(1).

Second, any person who (1) is at least four years older than the victim but younger than 21 years of age and (2) engages in a sexual act with a victim (3) who is 14 or 15 years old is guilty of a sexual offense in the fourth degree. Section 3-308(b)(2).

Third, any person who (1) is at least four years older than the victim but less than 21 years of age (2) and engages in vaginal intercourse with a victim (3) who is 14 or 15 years old is guilty of a sexual offense in the fourth degree. Section 3-308(b)(3).

In addition, any person (1) who is at least 21 years old (2) and in a position of authority at the school where the victim is enrolled, (3) and who engages in sexual contact, a sexual act, or vaginal intercourse with a victim under 18 years of age, is guilty of a sexual offense in the fourth degree. Section 3-308(c).

If a person violates this section and has no prior convictions for a sex crime, then that person is guilty of a misdemeanor sexual offense in the fourth degree and faces up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Section 3-308(d)(1).

If a person has a prior conviction for a sex crime and violates this section, then that person is still guilty of a misdemeanor sexual offense in the fourth degree but faces up to three years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $1,000. Section 3-308(d)(2).

Attempted Sexual Offense

Attempted First Degree Sexual Offense Section 3-311

If any person attempts to commit a sexual offense in the first degree, that person is guilty of a felony punishable to up to life in prison. Section 3-311.

Attempted Second Degree Sexual Offense Section 3-312

If any person attempts to commit a sexual offense in the second degree, that person is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Section 3-312.

How a Maryland Sexual Offense Lawyer Can Help

Maryland treats sex crimes very seriously. Apart from having to register with the Sex Offender Registry, sexual offense also carries penalties of heavy fines and jail time. If you have been charged with sexual offense, please contact a Maryland sexual offense attorney today.