It's well-known that nonconsensual activities, like rape and sexual assault, are illegal. It's not as well-known that some consensual sexual activities are also prohibited by law. Throughout history, states have used certain laws to criminalize sexual activity between same-sex partners. That changed in 2003.
In that year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Lawrence v. Texas. In that case, a man challenged his conviction in Texas for having sex with another man in the privacy of his own home, which violated a state anti-sodomy law. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional and unenforceable. In the wake of that decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, all anti-sodomy laws, as they apply to consenting adults, became unconstitutional and unenforceable.
While Maryland's laws still feature prohibitions on certain acts of sodomy, they cannot be used to criminalize sexual activity between same-sex partners.
Continue reading for an overview of Maryland laws that pertain to sexual activity.
Laws Related to Sexual Activity in Maryland
Each state has laws that prohibit certain kinds of consensual sexual activity. Normally these correlate with the social norms of that particular state, and they tend to change with the times.
Maryland's prohibited consensual sexual activity laws include regulations found in most other states, like provisions for public indecency and indecent exposure. However, the state also makes it a misdemeanor for someone who is HIV-positive to expose another person to the virus.
In Maryland law, there is also a provision that requires mandatory HIV testing and reporting under certain circumstances. And of course, while certain acts of sodomy remain illegal in Maryland, any laws related to that type of sexual activity can no longer be used to criminalize sexual activity between same-sex partners.
More About Laws Related to Sexual Activity
The main provisions of Maryland's prohibited consensual sexual activity laws are listed in the chart below. You can also visit FindLaw's Sex Crimes section for more comprehensive information on this topic.
Sodomy Laws Applicable to
|Under §3-322, it remains a crime to engage in acts of sodomy when the act involves an animal.
Penalty for Sodomy
|Under the same statute, offenses are treated as a misdemeanor. Offenders face up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders
- Under Health-Gen. §18-601.1, knowingly and intentionally exposing another person to the HIV virus is a crime. It is treated as a misdemeanor
- Under Crimes & Punish. §11-112, the victims of crimes likely to cause risk of exposure to the HIV virus may request that a judge order the perpetrator undergo testing for the virus. Once the offender has been convicted, they must submit to the ordered HIV test. Crimes likely to cause exposure include those of a sexual nature, such as rape.
- Under Crim. Law §11-107, indecent exposure is a crime.
- Offenses are treated as a misdemeanor.
- Offenders face up to three years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
- For more information about indecent exposure, consider reviewing FindLaw's page on the subject.
Age of Consent
- Under most circumstances, the age of consent in Maryland is 16.
- The offense of engaging in sexual activity with someone under the age of consent is known as statutory rape.
- For more information about statutory rape, consider reviewing FindLaw's page on the subject.
Prostitution & Other Related Offenses
- Under § 11-304, it is a crime to receive the earnings of someone that has engaged in an act of prostitution. Offenses are treated as a misdemeanor. Offenders face up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Under § 11-306, it is a crime to work as a prostitute and to own or operate a house of prostitution. Offenses are treated as a misdemeanor. Offenders face up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $500.
- Penalties for prostitution and offenses related to prostitution can vary based on the specifics of any given offense. For more information about prostitution and offenses related to prostitution, consider reviewing FindLaw's page on the subject.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Maryland prohibits public and non-public indecency, covering behavior from public sex to non-public nudity intended to be seen by other people. The statute also contains a broad definition of nudity, including exposure of the buttocks. So, if you're swimming or getting some sun, you might want to be careful about going bare. These laws are not very well-known, and it's possible that someone urinating in public could even find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Research the Law
Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about laws related to sexual activity:
- At Official State Codes, you'll find links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- At Maryland Code, you'll find links to all laws in the state, including those related to sexual activity.
Laws Related to Sexual Activity in Maryland: Additional Resources
If you or someone you love has been charged with a sex crime-related incident in Maryland, you probably have questions. If you want to continue your research, click on the links below to learn more.
Need More Help? Contact an Attorney Today
Social attitudes regarding sex are frequently changing, and state laws often follow suit. If you have been charged with a sex crime or would like to fully understand your rights, you should contact a Maryland criminal defense attorney in your area immediately to learn more. A skilled Maryland defense attorney can explain the law, your possible defense options, and more.