Statutory rape may be one of the most misunderstood criminal offenses. Unlike other forms of rape, it does not necessarily involve violence, coercion, fraud or intoxication. It instead focuses on the age difference between the partners.
People in healthy and happy relationships with an age gap could find themselves accused of statutory rape if their partner’s parents are upset about the relationship. The allegations of statutory rape sometimes also occur when the relationship ends and the younger person feels hurt.
Understanding what constitutes statutory rape in Maryland can help you avoid making mistakes that could later result in criminal charges.
Both age and the age gap between partners matter to the courts
In Maryland, there is a bit of nuance to the definition of statutory rape. State law does not establish a specific age of consent, but court precedent has. Years ago, the Maryland courts established the age of 16 as the age of consent for sexual activity.
This is the same age at which a teenager can consent to their own medical treatment without involving a parent. However, for statutory rape accusations to lead to criminal charges, what matters is not just that the younger partner is under the age of 16 but also that the gap in ages between the partners is more than four years. When the gap is less than four years or both partners are over 16, statutory rape laws do not apply.
The better you understand what laws Maryland imposes on intimate relationships, the easier it will be for you to avoid committing a crime or to defend yourself against allegations of sexual offenses.