Mar 2011

Michigan’s Sex Crime Categories Defined

If you have been charged with a sex crime in the state of Michigan, you may not only be facing serious jail time, but could be branded with the lifelong label of “sex offender.” Once convicted of a sex crime, you not only suffer the stigma the label brings but will be required to go through the sex offender registration each time you relocate. This means that no matter where you are, the entire community will not only know who you are and what you have done, but will be very aware of your “sex offender” label.

Even Michigan’s category of misdemeanor sex crimes (including indecent exposure, gross indecency and lewd conduct) can bring very serious consequences. While you may serve no actual prison time, you are still subject to the social stigma as well as possible job and family loss, and in certain situations may be required to register as a sex offender even at this level. In order to avoid the publicity of a sex crime case, you must avoid a conviction. Therefore it is imperative that you and your attorney organize the best defense possible against the specific sex crime you have been charged with. Additionally, many people are wrongfully accused of a sex crime, and because of the sensitive nature of this type of crime, prosecutors are inclined to seek the stiffest penalties possible. The following are Michigan’s degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct as well as the possible penalties involved in the event of a conviction. However these categories are fairly broad and only an attorney who is experienced in defending sex crimes can fully explain your specific charges.

Felony First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

First degree criminal sexual conduct requires some type of penetration. If a person in the state of Michigan has engaged in sexual penetration with a person who is under thirteen; the victim is between the age of thirteen and sixteen and is a member of the same household as the accused; is blood related to the accused; if the accused is in a position of authority over the victim; or if the accused is a teacher, school administrator, or employee of the school in which the victim attends, then the accused may be charged with First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Other circumstances which may warrant a charge of this degree include: sexual penetration which occurs during the commission of another felony, injury occurs due to force or coercion, the victim is mentally or physically incapacitated, the accused is armed or there is a threat of force or violence. First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct carries a possible punishment up to life in prison, or any set term of years as set by the judge. Where the victim is younger than 13 and the accused is over 17, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years. A second offense of this type carries a mandatory life sentence.

Felony Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct is charged where there is sexual contact but no penetration. Like Criminal Sexual Conduct First Degree, the accused is charged with this crime where the victim is under 13 years old; the victim is between 13 and 16 and is in the same household or related by blood; the accused is in a position of authority; or where the accused is a teacher, administrator, or employee of the school in which the victim attends. Also like First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, the accused can be charged with this degree where injury occurs and the accused is armed, uses force or coercion, or the victim has a mental illness. Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct is punishable by a maximum of 15 years.

Felony Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct is charged where there is penetration but none of the aggravating factors exist to raise the charge to First Degree. Specifically, the Third Degree statute calls for this charge where the victim is between 13 and 16 years old, force or coercion occurs without injury, the victim has a mental illness, the victim and accused are related, or the victim is over 16 but a student in which the accused is a teacher, administrator or employee. Like Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, Third Degree is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Misdemeanor Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree is characterized as a “high court” misdemeanor by statute but this is a somewhat misleading label. For other purposes, this charge may be considered a felony. It is punishable by not more than two years of prison time, a fine of not more than $500, or both. Like Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, a person may be charged with this crime for engaging in sexual contact but not penetration. Specifically, this degree can be charged where the accused engages in force or coercion without causing injury, the contact occurs in the medical treatment or examination of the victim in a manner which is unethical or unacceptable, when the accused achieves sexual contact through concealment or the element of surprise, or when the accused is a mental health professional and the sexual contact occurs either during or within two years after the time when the victim is his or her client.

Being accused of a sex crime is very serious, and as such warrants a very serious defense to ensure you do not end up in prison, and labeled as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

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