Over the last two years, we’ve seen some very powerful men (and a few women) taken down by the #MeToo movement, and with good reason: if guys like Weinstein are out there committing serial rape, then it’s about time they were called to justice.
(For the record, I’m using “if” because the guy hasn’t gone to trial yet. The Court of Public Opinion may have found him guilty, but I am a believer in the Constitution. Everyone gets their day in court, you know?)
Here’s the thing, though. So many of these stories occurred years, decades, before they were told. From a defense lawyer perspective, that makes them a bit suspect: we forget critical details over time, you know? But the other issue that a lot of these women run into is the statute of limitations. Every state has its own laws about how long you have to charge someone with a crime, after the fact. For years, men and women may not have come forward with their stories because there was nothing they could do about it, from a legal perspective.
The Internet may be changing that.
Before, if you were a victim of a sex crime, you had to find an anonymous meeting, or counseling group, and go there – in person – to talk to other people. Today? You can just hop online and find whole communities of people who shared your experiences. And those communities aren’t keeping silent anymore. They’re petitioning their local legislators and calling their Congresspeople. They’re following local law enforcement on Facebook and Twitter. They’re naming names.
And lawmakers are responding. Since 2016, multiple states have rolled back restrictions and SoLs on sex crimes, making it possible for victims (and law enforcement) to pursue criminal and civil cases against the accused. I’m not saying it’s easier to win a case, one way or the other – just that the laws are changing as people become more motivated to tells their stories and seek justice.
Maryland’s statute of limitations for sex crimes
Our laws are a little different. The majority of sex crimes in Maryland are felonies, and there are no SoLs for felony sex crime charges. A person can be charged 5 years or 50 years later, and the charges may hold. For misdemeanor sex crimes, there’s a one-year statute. They include:
- Sexual offense in the fourth degree, which means one person was 14 or 15, and the other person was at least 4 years older, or one person was in a position of authority.
- Unnatural or perverted sexual practice – AKA, sex acts with animals
- Sexual conduct between correctional or Department of Juvenile Services employee or court-provided services provider and inmate or confined child, which I think is pretty self-explanatory.
The state does have an SoL for civil cases, though, regardless of what the charges are. Adults get three years from the incident to file a lawsuit. If a kid is involved, they get seven years from the child’s 18th birthday, regardless of when the alleged crime was committed.
These conversations? They’re not going away – and they shouldn’t, because it’s important that we all start treating one another with respect and dignity. But we need to be more methodical about this issue, too, because this country still allows for due process, and we need to respect that. That’s what the justice system is supposed to be all about: an unbiased, objective system to weigh crimes and punishments.
If you’re facing sex crimes charges, you’re probably terrified. I’m here to help create a path forward for you. To learn more about your rights, or to speak with an Annapolis sex crimes defense lawyer, please call my office – Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law – at 410.777.8103, or use my contact form to set up an appointment.
Just remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.