Earlier this month, Maryland General Assembly a bill that allows prosecutors to drudge up the past of accused sex offenders and use it as evidence against them during trial. The Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act would enable prosecutors to take “sexually assaultive behavior” and submit it to the court 90 days prior to trial. Although supporters of the Act suggest that this closes a long-open loophole in sex offender cases, it may create jury bias and interfere with due process.
What Is “Sexually Assaultive Behavior”?
The definition of sexually assaultive behavior is a subjective one. The range of behavior that could be considered to fall within this category is wide and no clear segregation of what is and isn’t sexually assaultive exists. This means that prosecutors can bring up any past history that they feel is questionable and present it to the court as evidence against a defendant, even if the information is not applicable to the current case.
This “evidence” can be used to disprove false allegations and prove lack of consent. Translated, this means that if a defendant was previously convicted or even accused of a sex crime, prosecutors can use this information to suggest that the alleged victim in the current case did not provide consent or did not fabricate their story. In reality, past cases have no bearing on what an alleged victim did or did not do in a current case.
Criticism for the Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act
Many criminal defense attorneys, including assistant public defender with the Maryland Public Defender Office’s Misdemeanor Jury Trial Division Rachel Bennett, are against the bill.
Bennett says, “In general, there is a very strong principle that if someone is being prosecuted and tried for one particular crime, you don’t go and say, ‘Well, what is every other crime on their record? To convict somebody of the most serious types of crimes, it seems that those due process safeguards — that’s when they’re the most important.”
Were You Accused of a Crime? Contact an Experienced Defense Attorney Today
Although the bill is pending approval from Governor Larry Hogan, the Repeat Sexual Predator Act stresses the importance of having experienced legal defense against aggressive prosecutors. Regardless of the crime, prosecutors will use everything possible to secure a conviction. If you’ve been arrested for a crime, don’t hesitate to contact seasoned Maryland defense lawyer Richard J. Brueckner for a consultation. Call now at (410) 430-1464.