On Tuesday, Hogan signed 211 bills into law during a ceremony at the state house, including SB 217, or “Criminal Law – Sexual Offenses – Physical Resistance,” which eliminates the requirement that victims of sexual crimes prove they physically resisted their assailants.
“Making Maryland safer begins with making sure that we have a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and the harm they cause, while also supporting victims and the community in the process of healing,” Hogan said in a press release.
Previously, victims of rape had to prove they did not consent and that their resistance was overcome by “force, or the threat of force,” according to Section 3-303 of Maryland Criminal Law.
A 2016 BuzzFeed investigation into the Baltimore County Police Department found that the language in the law often allowed police to dismiss rape charges as “unfounded” if they believed that there wasn’t enough evidence that the victim fought back.
The bill, signed Tuesday, amends the law, specifically stating, “evidence of physical resistance by a victim is not required to prove that a sexual crime was committed.”
“Given that a victim increases their chances of being maimed or killed, if trying to physically resist the rape, this bill will clarify that a victim of rape does not have to fight the perpetrator or put up physical resistance in order for the court to hand down a guilty verdict,” State Senator Delores Kelley (D-District 10), who sponsored the bill, said on her website.
The bill was unanimously passed by both the State House and Senate before Hogan signed it into law Tuesday.
In addition, Hogan signed SB 308, the Protecting Victims of Sex Trafficking Act, which expands the definition of sexual abuse to include sex trafficking, even in cases where the sexual abuse is committed by a parent or guardian.
All of the laws signed Tuesday will take effect on October 1.