Sex Offenses: What Are They, and How Are They Different from Rape?

Intimacy between two people is a special and private bond. When that intimacy is unwanted or seemingly forced, it quickly turns into a criminal accusation.

But, are such incidents always considered rape? What counts as a “sex offense,” and how is it different from rape?

What Is a “Sex Offense” in Maryland?

In brief, sex offenses are less “severe” than rape, but are still extremely serious criminal offenses that can lead to a decade in jail. Sex offenses can include:

  • Using unwanted force or weapons during a sexual encounter;
  • Threatening force to prompt sexual contact;
  • Having sex with someone who is impaired enough not to be able to consent;
  • Underage sexual activity with minors; and
  • Leveraging positions of authority for sexual contact, especially for teachers against their students.

Sometimes, false accusations of sex offenses get made by ex-lovers or spouses in child custody disputes. It’s admittedly selfish motivation, and the accuser often doesn’t consider how far such allegations might go.

For example, police officers are trained to follow up on all accusations, and so might move to arrest individuals simply on someone’s word.

Even without a conviction, sex offense accusations or charges can seriously impact people’s lives, both personal and professional.

The Four Degrees of Sex Offenses in Maryland

Maryland divides sex offenses into different classifications. The “degree” of the charge is based on the instigating circumstance.

  • 4th degree sex offense – A misdemeanor; Charged when the accused is someone in a position of power over the alleged victim, such as a teacher, boss, or someone else who is at least four years older than the underage accuser. Statutory rape tends to fall under 4th degree sex offense, too.
  • 3rd degree sex offense – A felony; Charged from alleged sexual contact without consent, through force, and with a weapon. The victim may also be mentally handicapped, or otherwise disabled or vulnerable.

All convictions on sex offenses must register on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry. Prison time also often plays a part in sentencing of convictions.

How Is Rape Separated from Sex Offenses in Maryland?

Maryland makes a clear division between what is rape and sexual offenses.

At its most basic, sex offenses can just come from unwanted sexual contact. Rape, however is charged after unconsented vaginal intercourse or “sexual acts.”

This relatively new addition to the rape law means prosecutors can now seek more serious rape penalties for non-heterosexual sex acts, such as anal intercourse.

With recent changes to the criminal law to better clarify all sexual assault charges, rape is considered “worse” than sexual offense on a sort of sliding scale. Rape sentences have minimum jail time sentences, while sexual offenses have caps on possible prison time.

In order:

  • 4th degree sexual offense: Misdemeanor; fine and possible jail time
  • 3rd degree sexual offense: Felony; up to 10 years in prison
  • 2nd degree rape: Felony; minimum sentence of 15 years in prison
  • 1st degree rape: Felony; minimum sentence of 25 years in prison

Those convicted of either rape or sexual offense must register on Maryland’s sex offender registry, even after they’re out of prison.

In the end, differences between rape and sexual offense is razor thin. It comes down to whether forced and unconsented intercourse occurred or not.

Regardless of whether someone’s looking at sex offense or rape charges, the penalties and punishments for criminal sex acts are tough.

False allegations or not, handling it on your own because of innocence is a sure way to end up in a bind with police.

Remember: Cops tend to believe the accuser’s allegations first, and ask questions later. Their instinct leans toward proving a suspect’s guilt, not accepting their story at face value.

A sex offense attorney like the ones at JC Law can make sure that our client’s side is correctly heard. And, we closely examine the prosecution’s evidence to prove our side of the story to the judge, jury, and court at large.

If you want to see how we might defend your case, then schedule a free consultation at your convenience.

We’re ready to listen to you.

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