Breaking News
More () »

Loopholes in Maryland teen sex exploitation laws targeted by prosecutors

Due to Maryland's age of consent, adults in positions of authority, like private music teachers or athletic league coaches, can legally have sex with 16-year-olds.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Prosecuting attorneys from four Maryland counties gathered in Annapolis Tuesday to press lawmakers to do something about loopholes in the law that they say legally allow adults in positions of authority to groom 16 and 17-years-olds for sex. 

The State's Attorney's for Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties held a joint press conference to encourage the passing of several bills before the Maryland General Assembly. The attorneys said they are frustrated that two bills designed to protect kids from being exploited have been stalled in Maryland’s Senate.

Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy warned that the age of consent for sex in Maryland is 16 even when the partner is much older. McCarthy said while it’s illegal for teachers, or coaches in public or private schools to have sex with students, there's a dangerous gray area where adults in other positions of authority cannot be prosecuted for having sex with teens aged 16 and 17.

Prosecutors said they have been frustrated by the inability to hold athletic league coaches, private music teachers, private tutors and other adults responsible for exploiting Maryland's age of consent.

“In some cases they’re waiting until age 16 or 17 to act," McCarthy said. "They know precisely what they’re doing. It's grooming ... It's an unbalanced relationship where people can take advantage.”

Senate Bill 21 would expand the definition of “Person in Position of Authority” to include coaches, counselors, and teachers outside a school system, as well as anyone who works in government.

An additional bill would prohibit police from charging teens with prostitution, which critics say effectively criminalizes a child who has been victimized by adults.

Liz Kimbel, the Secretary of the Maryland Survivor Network, spoke on her experience of being exploited as a teen. She said that Maryland laws leave kids vulnerable to being trafficked.

“The traffickers are grooming children through romantic relationships behind parents backs and then they break them down little by little to where doing that awful thing for your boyfriend to see the rent is covered doesn’t seem as bad," Kimbel said.

WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Download the WUSA9 app to get breaking news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.
Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, delivering the latest breaking news and a roundup of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021.

Before You Leave, Check This Out