How Does Maryland Differentiate Between Rape in the Second and First Degrees?
While all sexual offenses are violent crimes, rape is the most serious offense in this category. In general terms, rape occurs when a perpetrator uses force, or the threat of force, and engages in sexual conduct without the victim’s consent. In specific terms, there are two different categories of rape crimes in Maryland: Second Degree and First Degree.
Second-Degree Rape in Maryland
Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-304 provides the specific elements of second-degree rape under state law. Specifically, Section 3-304 prohibits any person from engaging in vaginal intercourse or similar sexual acts:
- Without the consent of the other person and through the use of force or the threat of force;
- Knowing, or having a reason to know, that the other person is mentally, physically, or cognitively impaired; or
- With another person who is 13 years old or less and at least four years younger than the perpetrator.
If a person violates Section 3-304 and commits second-degree rape in Maryland, then they are guilty of a felony crime. The potential punishment includes a maximum of 20 years in prison, and under certain circumstances a mandatory minimum of 15 years without the possibility of parole.
Additionally, any rape conviction requires mandatory registration as a sex offender.
First-Degree Rape in Maryland
Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-303 provides an overview of first-degree rape under state law. In Maryland it is a felony to engage in vaginal intercourse or a sexual act with another person, using force or the threat of force and lacking consent of the other person, and while:
- Using or brandishing a dangerous weapon or a physical object that seems to be a dangerous weapon;
- Suffocating, strangling, or disfiguring the victim;
- Inflicting severe physical harm on the victim;
- Threatening to suffocate, strangle, disfigure, or otherwise harm the victim;
- Using the assistance of an accomplice to commit the offense; or,
- Committing burglary in the first, second, or third degree at the same time.
If a person violates Section 3-303 and commits first-degree rape in Maryland the potential punishment includes a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Under certain circumstances it is possible for a first-degree rape conviction to result in a life sentence without any possibility of parole, or a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years without the possibility of parole. If the state intends to seek a life sentence without the possibility of parole or a mandatory minimum sentence, then Section 3-303 requires at least 30 days notice to the alleged offender.
Let Us Help You with Your Case
If you need legal help with criminal charges for rape in the first or second degree in Maryland, it can be extremely helpful to speak with a trusted criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered in Bel Air, Maryland, have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in criminal and family law, including rape crimes and other sexual offenses. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.