Information on crimes that are commonly charged in Michigan. If you need legal assistance, please contact a lawyer.
Statutes: MCL 750.520b, MCL 750.520c, MCL 750.520d, MCL 750.520e
Crime Group: Person
Sentence Class: A (1st Degree), C (2nd Degree), B (3rd Degree), G (4th Degree)
Minimum Sentence: Varies
Maximum Sentence1: Life in Prison (1st Degree), 15 Years (2nd Degree), 15 Years (3rd Degree), 2 Years (4th Degree)
Maximum Fine: $500.00 for CSC 4th Degree
Jury Instructions: MCJI2d. 20.1, 20.2, 20.12, 20.13
Sex Offender Registration Required: Yes (with limited exceptions)
Criminal Sexual Conduct (often abbreviated as “CSC”) is a very serious crime, with penalties that correspond to the severity of the offense. While many people think that this crime just covers “rape”—which requires a man forcefully engaging in intercourse with a woman against her will—the reality is more complicated than that. While many other states have specific laws to cover things like “rape”, “molestation”, and “statutory rape”, using archaic terms like “carnal knowledge” and “indecent liberties”, Michigan has more updated statutes that cover broader, more comprehensive types of offenses. Because there are so many different ways CSC can be charged, the legislature decided to organize the comprehensive list of offenses into four different crimes, broken down by “degrees”. CSC 1st degree and 3rd degree cover offenses involving sexual penetration (meaning entry was made into the genital, anal, or oral opening by a penis, finger, tongue, or object), and CSC 2nd degree and 4th degree cover different, non-penetrative actions involving sexual contact (touching or fondling). CSC 1st degree and 2nd degree also involves some kind of aggravating factor.
These statutes use relatively obscure and sometimes complicated terms, especially when describing offenses that involve family relationships. For instance, the statutes prohibit certain activities between people related “by blood or affinity” to the “third degree” or “fourth degree”. “Affinity” refers to people that are related to you through marriage (as opposed to “consanguinity”, or people related “by blood”). “Third degree” affinity includes grandparents/grandchildren-in-law and brothers/sisters-in-law, whereas “fourth degree” affinity includes great grandparents/great grandchildren-in-law, aunts/uncles/nieces/nephews-in-law, and first cousins-in-law. Step relationships (step-brother, step-mother, etc.) are considered to be the same as blood relationships. So, a statute that prohibits sexual contact between people who are related “by blood or affinity to the third degree” would apply to step-siblings, but not to first cousins.
All CSC cases, regardless of degree, are extremely fact-driven. Specific circumstances—such as the age of the complainant, if there was force or coercion, information regarding consent, as well as the occupation and age of the defendant—are extremely important and play a role in determining which degree of CSC may be properly charged. These specific factors will also influence the potential consequences if a defendant is convicted. For instance, all CSC crimes are part of a group of charges called “listed offenses” used for determining placement on Michigan’s sex offender registry pursuant to the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA). If a person is convicted of a certain “listed offense”, in addition to the potential sentence they could receive from that conviction, they will likely also be required to submit to registration and electronic monitoring through SORA. The length of registration may vary from 15 years to life, and the registrant’s information may be available to the public.
To convict a defendant of any degree of CSC, the prosecutor has to prove that each element of the crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt. Essentially, the prosecutor has to prove there was some sort of sexual penetration for 1st and 3rd degree, or sexual contact (touching/groping) for 2nd or 4th degree, and that one of the circumstances listed for that degree applies. Each degree has its own set of circumstances, which, although sometimes similar, vary in wording from one degree to the next.
Because of the many ways a person can commit CSC, it is hard to estimate what, if any, plea agreement the prosecution will offer. It will always depend on the facts of the case and how strong the prosecution thinks its case is. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to offer a defendant the opportunity to plea to a lesser charge of “Assault with Intent to Commit Criminal Sexual Conduct” under MCL 750.520g. This is still a felony, and if the conduct involves penetration, the maximum penalty is 10 years. If the conduct involves non-penetration contact, the maximum penalty is five years. This charge can still require SORA registry, depending on the facts of the case.
Because of the very complicated nature of these kinds of cases and the exceptionally severe consequences that can result from a conviction, it is vitally important for anyone who suspects that (s)he may be accused of any sex-related crime to immediately hire an attorney.
In Michigan, people who are convicted of various types of sex crimes (including, but not limited to, criminal sexual conduct, possession of child pornography, indecent exposure, and a long list of other offenses) may be required to register as sex offenders. Under Michigan law, the Sex Offender Registry (or “SORA Registry”) is broken down into “tiers”. These tier levels are based upon the severity of the crime convicted and the history of the defendant.
A person who is required to register under SORA must follow the monitoring rules or risk being charged with additional felonies. The rules are strict, often confusing, and are enforced zealously by police and prosecutors who see convicted sex offenders as “bad people” who are easy to convict because jurors are unlikely to feel sympathy for them.
One of the most basic rules for people required to register is that they must update their registration on a regular schedule. That schedule will depend on which tier (s)he is assigned to and his/her date of birth. Additionally, registrants are required to update their information (essentially, re-register) any time they move, lose/obtain work, buy/sell a vehicle, change their name, get a new telephone number or email address, or create a social media account. All of these registrations and updates must be done in person within three days at their local Michigan State Police post or local police department. If a registrant become homeless, his/her residence then becomes the village, city, or township where they spend a majority of their time. This must also be reported within three days after it happens. Failure to do so can result in being charged with a four-year felony.
There is an initial fee of $50.00 for registering on the SORA Registry, plus an additional $50.00 fee annually thereafter. The fees may be paid in advance, but this does not affect the registration requirements, and the amount cannot be prorated if the registration is due to be completed before the next year. This fee will be discontinued for anyone initially required to register after January 1, 2019.
Tier 1 sex offenders, which can include those convicted of indecent exposure or relatively minor sex crimes, are not required to be listed on the public sex offender registry. They are still required to register, and their names will appear on the non-public registry (available to police and the courts) for 15 years.
Sex offenders who are classified under the second tier can include individuals convicted of manufacturing or distributing child pornography (known in Michigan as “child sexually abusive material”). The names of individuals convicted of second-tier offenses appear on the public sex offender registry for 25 years. They are required to register twice per yer.
Convicted sex offenders considered the most predatory or dangerous fall under Tier 3, and their names appear on the public sex offender registry for life. They are required to register four times per year.
Verification schedules for offenders are as follows:
Tier 1 Offenses are:
Tier 2 Offenses are:
Tier 3 Offenses are:
1Maximum sentence shown is for a first-time felony offender. Prior felonies make a defendant liable for “Habitual Offender” (“HO”) sentencing enhancement. This type of sentencing enhancement greatly increases the maximum amount of time a defendant convicted of this crime can spend in prison.
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