In Maryland, sex-based crimes are held to the same letter of the law as any other criminal case. However, individuals facing sexual assault charges do have certain legal defenses that can be argued in court.
Innocence is a commonly utilized defense against sexual assault claims. If a credible alibi is given to the court, supported by evidence that bolsters the claim, a defendant may be able to prove they were not present during the alleged assault. An innocence defense may also be used when the accuser mistakenly identifies the accused. In some cases, a DNA sample may be able to validate the defendant's claim of innocence.
A defendant may also be able to claim the sexual interaction was consensual. When a defense is based on consent, the accused may call the accuser's sexual behavior into question before the court, including past sexual interactions and relations. When victims are underage, inebriated, or unable to give consent for any incapacitated reason, defense by consent is nullified. Consent-based defenses can sometimes sway the court's opinion against the defendant. In some cases, a court may consider a defendant's defense of consent if the victim misrepresented their age or the accused can earnestly demonstrate they were not aware the victim was unable to give their consent. Mental disorders that prevent a defendant from understanding the nature or severity of a sexual offense may also be used as a legal defense.
While there are specific legal defenses for sex crimes in Maryland, there may be harsh penalties if a defendant is convicted of the crime. Anyone with questions about sexual assault allegations and potential defenses should seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney.