Maryland lawmakers work to close sex crimes loophole

A legal loophole in the state of Maryland currently allows certain defendants accused of sex crimes to avoid serious punishment if they engage in sexual conduct with a student. Legislators in the state say they want to expand the definitions of such sex crimes. Currently, adults can be punished for having sexual relations with a child if they are school administrators, teachers or counselors. Part-time employees, volunteers, substitute teachers and coaches are not included in the mandate; as a result, some defendants are not held to the same standard as others.

Lawmakers say that they have been attempting to close the legal loophole for about 10 years, but they have been unable to agree on certain provisions. The state House and Senate are both considering bills that would expand the definition of ‘authority figure’ to include other employees, even those who work for recreation departments. A consolidated bill passed through the House, but it stalled in the Senate. Lawmakers are having difficulty reaching agreement on proposed punishment for violators. For instance, a 19-year-old assistant coach who has a relationship with a 17-year-old student might not deserve jail time, according to some officials.

The legislators cite a recent incident in which a 47-year-old man, a middle-school teacher, was accused of sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old former student. That student was an athlete on the high school track team, and the man was a coach. Certain charges were dropped against him, however, because he was not employed full-time and was thus not categorized as an authority figure.

Individuals accused of similar sex crimes may benefit from the assistance of a Maryland attorney who is familiar with the exact definition of an authority figure. Individuals accused of sex crimes have legal rights that should be protected in court. A Maryland attorney may work to prevent the violation of those rights related to existing authority figure law.