Garnett v. State

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Garnett v. State
Court Court of Appeals of Maryland
Citation 332 Md. 571
632 A.2d 797
Date decided 1993

Facts

The defendant was a 20 year old mentally disabled man who engaged in sexual intercourse with a 13 year old girl. There was evidence that the girls’ friends told the man that she was 16, and the intercourse was consensual. Second degree rape is when “a person engages in vaginal intercourse with another person: …3) Who is under 14 years of age and the person performing the act is at least four years older than the victim.

Issues

Whether the statute defines a strict liability offense, because it does not require that the accused have acted with a criminal state of mind.

Holding

Maryland’s second degree rape statute defines a strict liability offense that does not require the state to prove mens rea.

Rule

When the legislature considered criminal intent and includes it in other sections, there is indication that it intended for strict liability where not requiring criminal intent.

Comments

Unjustness of strict liability:

  • the actor is subjected to the stigma of a criminal conviction without being morally blameworthy
  • extensive government civil regulations and strict liability in tort achieve the same deterrent effect
  • the judicial efficiency of dispatching minor offenses without an inquiry into mens rea is attained equally by decriminalizing them and hearing such cases in an administrative forum
  • the small penalties imposed for most strict liability offenses oblige the public to engage in distinguishing real crime from some lesser form of crime
  • some strict liability laws may result from careless drafting
  • strict liability dilutes the moral force that the criminal law has historically carried