Sexual Offense Law & Legal Definition


Sexual offenses includes such crimes as rape, sodomy, and sexual abuse. Most states have laws, which vary by state, on registraton of sexual offenders. The registered sex offenders are required to notify the local community authorities of their residence so that the public may have access to information about sexual predators in their neighborhood.

Rape is generally defined as sexual intercourse with a person by forcible compulsion; or sexual intercourse with a person who is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated; or sexual intercourse with an underage person. Sodomy is defined similarly to rape, except that it involves deviate sexual conduct, as opposed to intercourse. Sexual abuse involves similar elements of force or lack of consent, but involves sexual contact, rather than intercourse or deviate sexual acts. Definitions vary by state, so local laws need to be consulted to determine the applicabe law in your area.

Evidentiary rules regarding sexual abuse of young children vary by jurisdiction. Such abuse may be established through medical records and expert testimony. There is considerable debate over the techniques and diagnostic tools used by experts to establish sexual abuse in very young children and those who claim repressed memories.

Example of a State Statute ( Maryland) on Sexual Offense

In Maryland, depending upon the gravity of the offences there are four degrees of sexual offenses.

Sexual offense in the first degree occurs when a person engage in a sexual act with another by force, or the threat of force, without the consent of the other. This is a felony of the first degree and is generally punishable with imprisonment not exceeding life.

Sexual offense in the second degree occurs when a person engage in a sexual act with a mentally defective individual or a physically helpless person knowing that they are so or with a victim is under the age of 14 years by force or the threat of force. This is a felony of the second degree.

Sexual offense in the third degree occurs when a person engage in a sexual act with another without consent after threatening them with dangerous weapons or strangulation or disfiguration, or infliction of serious physical injury or engages in sexual act with a mentally defective individual or a physically helpless person or with a victim is under the age of 14 years or engages in vaginal intercourse with a victim who is 14 or 15 years old, and the person performing the act is at least 21 years old. This is a felony of the third degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.

Sexual offense in the fourth degree refers to sexual acts committed by persons in a position of authority with regard to the minor. Person in authority can include the principal, vice principal, teacher, or school counselor at a public or private preschool, elementary school, or secondary school. This is a felony of the fouth degree.

The relevant Law ( Maryland) as it appears in the statute.

Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. §§ 3-305. Sexual offense in the first degree

(a) Prohibited. -- A person may not:

(1) engage in a sexual act with another by force, or the threat of force, without the consent of the other; and

(2) (i) employ or display a dangerous weapon, or a physical object that the victim reasonably believes is a dangerous weapon;

(ii) suffocate, strangle, disfigure, or inflict serious physical injury on the victim or another in the course of committing the crime;

(iii) threaten, or place the victim in fear, that the victim, or an individual known to the victim, imminently will be subject to death, suffocation, strangulation, disfigurement, serious physical injury, or kidnapping;

(iv) commit the crime while aided and abetted by another; or

(v) commit the crime in connection with a burglary in the first, second, or third degree.

(b) Violation of § 3-503(a)(2) of this title. -- A person may not violate subsection (a) of this section while also violating § 3-503(a)(2) of this title involving a victim who is a child under the age of 16 years.

(c) Age considerations. -- A person 18 years of age or older may not violate subsection (a) of this section involving a victim who is a child under the age of 13 years.

(d) Penalty. --

(1) Except as provided in paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) of this subsection, a person who violates subsection (a) of this section is guilty of the felony of sexual offense in the first degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding life.

(2) A person who violates subsection (b) of this section is guilty of the felony of sexual offense in the first degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding life without the possibility of parole.

(3) A person who violates subsection (a) or (b) of this section is guilty of the felony of sexual offense in the first degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding life without the possibility of parole if the defendant was previously convicted of violating this section or § 3-303 of this subtitle.

(4) (i) Subject to subparagraph (iv) of this paragraph, a person 18 years of age or older who violates subsection (c) of this section is guilty of the felony of sexual offense in the first degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment for not less than 25 years and not exceeding life without the possibility of parole.

(ii) A court may not suspend any part of the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years.

(iii) The person is not eligible for parole during the mandatory minimum sentence.

(iv) If the State fails to comply with subsection (e) of this section, the mandatory minimum sentence shall not apply.

(e) Required notice. -- If the State intends to seek a sentence of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole under subsection (d)(2), (3), or (4) of this section, or imprisonment for not less than 25 years under subsection (d)(4) of this section, the State shall notify the person in writing of the State's intention at least 30 days before trial.

Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 3-306. Sexual offense in the second degree

(a) Prohibited. -- A person may not engage in a sexual act with another:

(1) by force, or the threat of force, without the consent of the other;

(2) if the victim is a mentally defective individual, a mentally incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless individual, and the person performing the sexual act knows or reasonably should know that the victim is a mentally defective individual, a mentally incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless individual; or

(3) if the victim is under the age of 14 years, and the person performing the sexual act is at least 4 years older than the victim.

(b) Age considerations. -- A person 18 years of age or older may not violate subsection (a)(1) or (2) of this section involving a child under the age of 13 years.

(c) Penalty. --

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, a person who violates this section is guilty of the felony of sexual offense in the second degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 20 years.

(2) (i) Subject to subparagraph (iv) of this paragraph, a person 18 years of age or older who violates subsection (b) of this section is guilty of the felony of sexual offense in the second degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment for not less than 5 years and not exceeding 20 years.

(ii) A court may not suspend any part of the mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years.

(iii) The person is not eligible for parole during the mandatory minimum sentence.

(iv) If the State fails to comply with subsection (d) of this section, the mandatory minimum shall not apply.

(d) Required notice. -- If the State intends to seek a sentence of imprisonment for not less than 5 years under subsection (c)(2) of this section, the State shall notify the person in writing of the State's intention at least 30 days before trial.

Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 3-307. Sexual offense in the third degree

(a) Prohibited. -- A person may not:

(1) (i) engage in sexual contact with another without the consent of the other; and

(ii) 1. employ or display a dangerous weapon, or a physical object that the victim reasonably believes is a dangerous weapon;

2. suffocate, strangle, disfigure, or inflict serious physical injury on the victim or another in the course of committing the crime;

3. threaten, or place the victim in fear, that the victim, or an individual known to the victim, imminently will be subject to death, suffocation, strangulation, disfigurement, serious physical injury, or kidnapping; or

4. commit the crime while aided and abetted by another;

(2) engage in sexual contact with another if the victim is a mentally defective individual, a mentally incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless individual, and the person performing the act knows or reasonably should know the victim is a mentally defective individual, a mentally incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless individual;

(3) engage in sexual contact with another if the victim is under the age of 14 years, and the person performing the sexual contact is at least 4 years older than the victim;

(4) engage in a sexual act with another if the victim is 14 or 15 years old, and the person performing the sexual act is at least 21 years old; or

(5) engage in vaginal intercourse with another if the victim is 14 or 15 years old, and the person performing the act is at least 21 years old.

(b) Penalty. -- A person who violates this section is guilty of the felony of sexual offense in the third degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.

Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code Ann. § 3-308. Sexual offense in the fourth degree

(a) "Person in a position of authority" defined. -- In this section, "person in a position of authority":

(1) means a person who:

(i) is at least 21 years old;

(ii) is employed as a full-time permanent employee by a public or private preschool, elementary school, or secondary school; and

(iii) because of the person's position or occupation, exercises supervision over a minor who attends the school; and

(2) includes a principal, vice principal, teacher, or school counselor at a public or private preschool, elementary school, or secondary school.

(b) Prohibited. -- A person may not engage in:

(1) sexual contact with another without the consent of the other;

(2) except as provided in § 3-307(a)(4) of this subtitle, a sexual act with another if the victim is 14 or 15 years old, and the person performing the sexual act is at least 4 years older than the victim; or

(3) except as provided in § 3-307(a)(5) of this subtitle, vaginal intercourse with another if the victim is 14 or 15 years old, and the person performing the act is at least 4 years older than the victim.

(c) Sexual abuse of a minor student by a person in a position of authority. --

(1) Except as provided in § 3-307(a)(4) of this subtitle or subsection (b)(2) of this section, a person in a position of authority may not engage in a sexual act or sexual contact with a minor who, at the time of the sexual act or sexual contact, is a student enrolled at a school where the person in a position of authority is employed.

(2) Except as provided in § 3-307(a)(5) of this subtitle or subsection (b)(3) of this section, a person in a position of authority may not engage in vaginal intercourse with a minor who, at the time of the vaginal intercourse, is a student enrolled at a school where the person in a position of authority is employed.

(d) Penalty. --

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, a person who violates this section is guilty of the misdemeanor of sexual offense in the fourth degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both.

(2) (i) On conviction of a violation of this section, a person who has been convicted on a prior occasion not arising from the same incident of a violation of §§ 3-303 through 3-312 or § 3-315 of this subtitle or § 3-602 of this title is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both.

(ii) If the State intends to proceed against a person under subparagraph (i) of this paragraph, it shall comply with the procedures set forth in the Maryland Rules for the indictment and trial of a subsequent offender.