Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 14, 2024

Maryland's highest court has redefined the concept of rape to include situations in which one party withdraws consent after penetration.

This decision by the Court of Appeals in the 2004 trial of Baby v. Maryland, which involved a student at Montgomery College, overturned its precedent that said consent could not be withdrawn after initial penetration.

"The Court's ruling clarified Maryland's rape law and it is clearly correct. It supports the autonomy of woman survivors and of women generally," said Lisae Jordan, legal director for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which filed a brief in the case.

The ruling gives women the right to retract consent after penetration, a decision that overturns precedent set by previous court rulings.

The court ruled that the Baby v. Maryland case must be retried because a judge did not clarify jurors' confusion surrounding the right to withdraw consent.

This will be the third trial for the accused, Maouloud Baby.

In December 2003, Baby, then 15, began engaging in sex with the alleged victim, who at the time was enrolled in Montgomery College.

According to police, the woman consented on the condition that he stop when she told him to. After penetration, she told him to stop because he was hurting her.

Testimony from the alleged victim in the original 2004 trial states that Baby continued for five or 10 seconds before ending penetration.

''I yelled stop, that it hurt, and I was pushing him off me," the allegedy victim testified.

Baby was originally convicted of first-degree rape and other crimes, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but five suspended.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals then overturned the conviction.

Their decision was based on a 1980 ruling by the state's highest court, which said that post-penetration withdrawal of consent is not considered rape under Maryland law.

The choice to reevaluate the Baby case has called into question the circumstances of Maryland common-law rape.

Maryland criminal law defines rape in the first degree as "vaginal intercourse with another by force, or the threat of force, without the consent of the other."

"I think the court of appeals brought along into line with what many people in society already believe, that you are permitted to say no and your partner should respect that," Jordan said.

But some believe that the issue has been altered from the original case into a broader argument over a woman's right to consent.

"I think that as a matter of law, a second delay should not, cannot be considered rape. The court did not draw a distinctions between the five-second delay and a violent attack," said Mel Feit, director of the National Center for Men, an activist group located in Long Island, N.Y.

The new law will not affect Hopkins current policies regarding sexual assault.

According to Dean of Student Life Susan Boswell, a student coming forth with a complaint after the decision will trigger the same investigation as before.

The University investigates the claims through a judicial progress, with a disciplinary hearing to decide responsibility or non-responsibility.

With the decision, Maryland joins with seven other states whose court systems have also agreed to a woman's right to revoke consent.

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