Maryland Changes Onerous Requirement in Rape Laws

A new law went into effect earlier this year that changes how the crime of rape is investigated, prosecuted, and proven. The new law changes what state prosecutors have to prove in court and eliminates a hurdle that prosecutors often face when trying to prove rape charges.

Old Law Made Prosecutions Difficult

Maryland’s criminal rape statute, as it existed before the change, required the state to show not only that there was no consent by the victim, but also that the victim resisted the rape attempt, and was overcome by the use of force by the perpetrator.

This meant that the State could have a difficult time prosecuting cases in which victims submitted to their assailant to avoid further violence or out of fear. The new law eliminates the requirement of showing that a victim physically resisted the assailant.

Investigation Reveals Problem in the Laws

The law was changed partly in reaction to a Buzzfeed.com article, investigating the rates at which police departments dismiss rape charges. These are cases in which a detective or police department declares a rape charge to be “unfounded,” and no further investigation of the event happens, and of course, no charges are brought against any attacker.

Baltimore County had one of the higher national averages of dismissed investigations, at 34%.  Many regions had higher numbers, including Oxnard, California, at 57%. Experts say the system is broken because it is impossible that so many people are making up rape charges.

The investigation found that Baltimore County law enforcement often dismissed an investigation because a rape victim did not resist “to the best of her ability.” The investigation noted one case that was dismissed even where a woman feared that a rapist would hurt her if she resisted because she could not specify how the attacker would hurt her. It noted another incident where a woman was told she would be killed if she resisted. The woman had evidence of physical abuse. Yet, because she did not resist, the rape charge was dismissed.

Police Defend Dismissals

The Baltimore County Police defended their actions by saying that they could only do what the law says, and Maryland’s rape law required a victim fight back. Unfortunately, just saying no was not enough to support a rape charge the way the law was written, according to police.

However, the report noted that appellate courts had interpreted the law another way. Many decisions had concluded that a woman can exert force, showing she resisted without using physical resistance. One found that a woman who pushed away her attacker’s hand used enough force to satisfy the law’s requirements.

Thus, the investigation questioned whether Baltimore County police were interpreting the law correctly, and if not, whether they were giving up on investigating rape cases too easily.

Law Change may Remedy the Problem 

That will likely not be an issue any more with the change in the law that will now eliminate the confusion, difficulty, and harshness of the requirement of showing of forceful resistance by a victim in Maryland’s rape laws.

Make sure your attorney understands the state of the law no matter what kind of crime you are charged with. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your case if you are charged with a crime or arrested in Maryland.