Fourth Degree Sexual Offense in Maryland: What You Need to Know
The accusation of a fourth-degree sexual offense in Maryland is a serious matter that can dramatically change a person's life. Whether it's a misunderstanding or a regrettable mistake, the legal consequences are profound.
This post serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding this charge and how to defend against it. If you're sex offense charges or want to understand the legal landscape, this article is for you.
Understanding Fourth Degree Sexual Offenses in Maryland
Definition and Elements
A fourth-degree sexual offense in Maryland involves engaging in sexual contact with another person without their consent. This charge doesn't only pertain to forceful actions; it can include situations where the victim is incapable of giving consent, or certain aged based sexual content.
Understanding the specifics of what constitutes a fourth-degree sexual offense can be intricate, making professional legal assistance crucial. There are three main prohibited actions that can be a Fourth Degree Sex Offense in Maryland:
Sexual Contact Related Fourth Degree Sexual Offense
A fourth degree sexual offense in Maryland can include an allegation of sexual contact with another person without their consent. To prove this type of fourth degree sex offense the State must prove
that the defendant had sexual contact with the victim and
that the sexual contact was made against the will and without the consent of the victim
What is Sexual Contact?
Sexual contact means the intentional touching of a victim or Defendant's genital or anal area or other intimate parts for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, or for abuse of either party.
The state does not need to show any element of resistance by the other party.
What is an example of Sexual Contact based Fourth Degree Sex Offense charges?
An example of how this could be charged is a situation where a Defendant touched the breast of a woman without her consent in a bar. She need not scream or bat his hand away. In this example the State would try to prove the Defendant touched the breast (an intimate part) for his own sexual gratification.
Age Based Fourth Degree Sexual Offense
Maryland has certain age based Fourth Degree Sexual Offenses. A person may not commit a sexual act with another person who is fourteen or fifteen years old if they are at least four years older than the victim.
If a person is nineteen years old, they cannot commit a sexual act with a fourteen year old. If a person is twenty years old, they cannot commit a sexual act with a fifteen year old.
What is a sexual act?
A sexual act includes mouth based acts including fellatio, cunninglingus, and analingus. Sexual acts also include anal intercourse, or unlawful penetration. Unlawful penetration can be perpetrated by any penetration by a part of another person's body into the genital or anal opening of another person.
Does Maryland have statutory rape?
Maryland does not recognize a crime of statutory rape; however, there are several age based sexual offenses in Maryland. The official age of consent in Maryland is sixteen years old.
If a person has sexual contact with a minor between fourteen and fifteen years old they may be charged with either Third Degree or Fourth Degree sexual charges depending on the age of the Defendant. If within four years of age, they will not have committed a crime; however, if older than four years but under twenty one years they would have committed a fourth degree sexual offense. If the person was older than 21, they would have committed a third degree sexual offense.
Teacher - Student Fourth Degree Sexual Offense
If a Defendant is a person in authority over another, they cannot engage in a sexual act or sexual contact with a person under the age of eighteen with a student enrolled at a school where the person in authority was employed.
What is a person in a position of authority?
A person in a position of authority means a person who:
- is at least 21 years old;
- is employed by or under contract with a public or private preschool, elementary school, or secondary school; and
- because of the person's position or occupation, exercises supervision over a minor who attended that school
Penalties and Consequences
If convicted of a fourth-degree sexual offense, the penalties can be severe. A conviction for a 4th Degree Sexual Offense carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
The long-term effects extend beyond legal penalties, potentially impacting personal relationships, career prospects, and overall reputation.
Subsequent Offender Penalties
If a person has a prior sexual offense they might face up to three years and/or a $1,000 fine, so long as the State properly notifies a person of their intent to seek subsequent offender penalties.
Sex Offender Registry and Fourth Degree Sexual Offenses
If a person is convicted of a fourth degree sexual offense they must register under Maryland's Sex Offender Registry as a Tier 1 Offender. A tier one offender must remain on the registry for fifteen (15) years.
Many myths surround fourth-degree sexual offense charges, leading to misunderstandings that can complicate legal proceedings.
Misconception #1: "Consent was initially given, so it's not an offense." Even if consent was initially provided, it can be withdrawn at any time, especially when dealing with minors.
Misconception #2: "It's a minor charge; I can handle it myself." This is a grave legal matter that requires professional guidance.
Why am I charged with a sexual offense and an assault?
Fourth degree sexual offenses are often charged alongside second degree assault charges when there's an allegation that an intimate part was touched.
A non-sexual seeming assault - like a touch on the butt during a fight - can lead to unwarranted sexual charges in a regular assault case.
Legal Procedures and Processes
The Arrest Process
If accused of a fourth-degree sexual offense, the arrest process can be distressing. Knowing your rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, is paramount. Our firm has guided many through this process, ensuring rights are protected.
The Court Process
Navigating the court process can be complex. From bail review to trial, understanding the legal nuances is essential. Having a seasoned attorney can make all the difference, guiding you through each stage.
Building a Strong Defense
Role of a Defense Attorney
Hiring a professional defense attorney isn't just a wise decision; it's often essential for a fair trial. From reviewing evidence to strategizing the best defense, a seasoned lawyer knows how to navigate the complexities of the law.
At FrizWoods LLC, our team has extensive experience in handling fourth-degree sexual offense cases, providing personalized and effective legal services.
Potential Defense Strategies
Several defense strategies can be employed, depending on the specifics of the case:
- Consent Defense: Demonstrating that consent was given at the time of the alleged offense.
- Lack of Evidence: Challenging the validity or sufficiency of evidence.
- Mistaken Identity: Proving that the accused was wrongly identified as the perpetrator.
How FrizWoods LLC Can Help
At FrizWoods LLC, we recognize the gravity of a fourth-degree sexual offense charge and treat each case with the seriousness it deserves. Our firm's expertise in this field sets us apart:
- Experience: Our skilled lawyers have successfully defended clients in numerous similar cases.
- Personalized Approach: We tailor our defense strategy to your unique situation.
- Client Testimonials: Our satisfied clients' stories on our reviews page speak volumes about our dedication and success.
A fourth-degree sexual offense charge in Maryland is a severe legal matter with significant consequences. Understanding the charge, debunking common misconceptions, knowing the legal processes, and building a strong defense are crucial steps in navigating this complex issue.
With the right legal assistance, such as that offered by FrizWoods LLC, the outcome of your case can be profoundly influenced in your favor.
Call FrizWoods today
If you or a loved one is facing a fourth-degree sexual offense charge in Maryland, time is of the essence. Seek professional legal assistance from FrizWoods LLC to ensure your rights are protected and build a strong defense tailored to your situation.
Contact us for an urgent consultation. Your future may depend on the actions you take now, so don't hesitate to reach out to our dedicated and experienced team.