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How many degrees of sexual assault charges are there in Maryland?

Sexual assault of any type is a heinous crime. It doesn't matter if the victim is a woman or a man and it doesn't matter if the victim is young or old. A sex crime is a horrendous event and can leave lifelong physical, mental and emotional scars on the victim; therefore the state of Maryland takes charges of this type very seriously. In order to better protect its citizens, the state has developed four degrees of sexual assault charges. These range in severity from first degree sexual assault, which are the most serious, to fourth degree charges which are the least severe.

If someone in Maryland is charged with first degree sexual assault, then this person is believed to have taken part in a sexual act with another person against their will. This act includes anal or oral sex or using any part of one's body to penetrate the other person's body for their own sexual gratification. The act must have been accomplished by force or a threat of using force along with brandishing a weapon of some kind. It is important to understand that forced vaginal intercourse in not covered by sexual assault laws in Maryland but rather by the state's rape laws.

Second degree sexual assault involves a sexual act with another person either through force or without the victim's consent. It can also involve having sex with a mentally or physically challenged person, including someone who is either high or inebriated. A second degree sexual assault charge can also stem from any sex act with a person under the age of 14, especially if the person charged with the assault is at least four years older than the victim.

A third degree sexual assault charge usually involves sexual contact of some type. This commonly includes touching either the victim sexually or having the victim touch the defendant in order for the defendant to receive sexual gratification. The situations of a third degree sexual assault are very similar to those described for second degree assault.

Fourth degree sexual assault refers to sexual contact without the other person's consent or vaginal sex with a 14 or 15-year-old where the defendant is at least four years older. It also includes having sexual contact or vaginal sex with someone who is below the age of 18 and who was a student while the person charged with the crime was in an authoritative position.

Source:, "Maryland rape and sexual assault laws," April 12, 2015

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