MD Court Rules Consent Only Needed Prior to Sexual Act in Alleged Rape Cases
A three-judge panel of the Maryland Special Court of Appeals reinforced the provision of Maryland's rape law that says a woman who gives consent prior to intercourse cannot withdraw her legal consent during the act. The decision came on Monday when the Court overturned a rape conviction. During deliberation in the original trial, the jury had asked, "If a female consents to sex initially and, during the course of the sex act to which she consented, for whatever reason, she changes her mind and the... man continues until climax, does the result constitute rape?" The trial judge said that Marylandís law was unclear and would not provide a definite answer. The Special Court of Appeals, however, disagreed with the trial judge's interpretation of the law. Current Maryland rape law is "not ambiguous," said the ruling; if a woman consents prior to sex, she may not withdraw her consent during the act and accuse her partner of rape if he continues the act.
Women's rights groups are outraged by the ruling. "You should have the right to say no at anytime and that should mean no and if sexual acts continue after you've withdrawn your consent, they should be considered a crime," said Jennifer Pollitt Hill, a member of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, to WJZ, a local television station. According to WJZ, several decision-makers have already said they wish to address the issue in the upcoming legislative session, though legislation that would have given women the right to withdraw consent at anytime has failed in both 2004 and 2005.
Maryland is one of two states that have ruled that women do not have the right to withdraw consent. Seven other states have ruled that women may withdraw consent at anytime.
Media Resources: Associated Press 10/31/06; WJZ 11/1/06; Maouloud Baby v. State of Maryland 10/30/06