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Upcoming Changes in Maryland’s Rape Statutes: A New Era for Consent Laws


June 7, 2024

Maryland is on the brink of significant legal reforms regarding its rape statutes, marking a pivotal moment in the state's approach to sexual assault cases. These changes, driven by recent legislative efforts and the advocacy of various groups, aim to redefine how consent is understood and legally validated in the state.

Key Legislative Changes

  1. House Bill 496: Redefining Consent and Removing Force Requirement In a groundbreaking move, Maryland's General Assembly passed House Bill 496, which Governor Wes Moore is set to sign into law. This bill eliminates the requirement for prosecutors to prove "force or threat of force" in second-degree rape cases. Instead, it introduces a clear statutory definition of consent, emphasizing that sexual acts must involve clear and voluntary agreement from all parties involved​ (MCASA)​​ (Maryland General Assembly)​.
  2. Impact on Legal Proceedings Historically, Maryland's legal system required evidence that the victim resisted the attack to establish lack of consent, placing an undue burden on survivors. The new law aligns legal standards with educational principles taught in schools, where consent is understood as an essential prerequisite for sexual activity. This shift is expected to facilitate a more survivor-centric approach in legal proceedings, reducing the retraumatization often experienced during trials​ (MCASA)​.
  3. Senate Bill 758: Affirmative Consent Standard Another critical piece of legislation, Senate Bill 758, also focuses on consent. Sponsored by Senator Ariana Kelly, this bill modifies the language of the statute to highlight the necessity of a clear and voluntary agreement, effectively moving towards an affirmative consent standard. While not explicitly termed as "affirmative consent," the bill's provisions are designed to make it clear that anything other than an enthusiastic "yes" should be interpreted as a "no"​.
  1. Prosecution of Spousal Rape: Senate Bill 230 Senate Bill 230, soon to be enacted, allows for the prosecution of rape within marriage. This change addresses the outdated legal exemption that prevented spouses from being charged with raping their partners. This reform is a significant step towards acknowledging and rectifying marital rape, providing survivors within marriages the legal recognition and protection they deserve.

The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) has been at the forefront of these legislative changes. The organization has tirelessly advocated for survivors, highlighting the inadequacies of the previous laws and pushing for reforms that prioritize consent and survivor protection. MCASA's Executive Director, Lisae C. Jordan, emphasized the necessity of these changes, stating that individuals should not be presumed to consent to sexual activity unless they explicitly express it.

While the passage of these bills marks significant progress, implementation will require continued education and training for law enforcement, legal professionals, and the public. Ensuring that all stakeholders understand and apply the new definitions of consent is crucial for the laws to have their intended impact. Additionally, ongoing support and resources for survivors remain essential to complement these legal changes.

In conclusion, the upcoming changes to Maryland's rape statutes represent a monumental shift towards a more just and survivor-centric legal landscape. By redefining consent and removing archaic requirements for proving force, Maryland is setting a new standard for how sexual assault cases are handled, paving the way for a future where survivors' voices are heard and respected.

If you or a family member is charged with a sexual offense, immediately call the Law Offices of Craig M. Kadish & Associates, L.L.C.  Mr. Kadish has been practicing criminal law in Maryland and across the country for 35 years.  Along with Edward J. Coyne, Esq. (a former prosecutor with over 25 years of criminal law experience) Mr. Kadish and the rest of their team have unmatched experience representing individuals charged with rape, sexual offenses, and child pornography matters.  Contact them for your free in-office consultation today.

Craig M. Kadish - Criminal Defense Attorney Maryland

Craig Kadish

With 30 years of experience and a lengthy track record of success, Craig Kadish has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most highly sought after criminal defense attorneys. Mr. Kadish has practiced criminal law for three decades, winning an array of high-profile cases. He has had the honor of being recognized both locally and nationally for his dedication, diligence, and prowess in representing clients in exacting and innovate ways. He’s known as a leader in his field. His tenure as a criminal defense attorney and law professor has given him invaluable expertise that few other attorneys possess.

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