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First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

In Michigan, first-degree criminal sexual conduct is the most serious kind of sex offense with which you can be charged. In essence, 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct is the crime known more commonly as rape or sexual assault and also encompasses actions that most people might think of as child rape or child molestation, and sexual assault involving someone with a mental or physical disability.

A conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct may result in consequences that include:

  • A lengthy prison sentence — up to life
  • Criminal fines and court costs
  • Lifelong electronic monitoring by the state
  • A permanent criminal record as a sex offender
  • Loss or denial of employment
  • Denial of applications for rental housing and restrictions on where you can live
  • Loss of custody of your children
  • Loss or denial of a professional license to work as a lawyer, doctor, teacher, nurse, pharmacist, or other licensed professional
  • Affects on your immigration status if you’re a non-U.S. citizen, including denial or revocation or your immigration visa or green card, denial of your citizenship application, or deportation to your home country

Sex offense charges, particularly very serious ones such as 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct, result in criminal cases that are complicated and emotionally fraught, sometimes pitting family members or former romantic partners against each other. There’s also often a societal presumption of guilt when you’re charged with a sex offense — especially one involving a minor — regardless of the facts. When you’re facing a criminal sexual conduct charge, it’s important to have the right Michigan sex crimes lawyer by your side to protect your rights and make sure your side of the story is told.

It’s important to know that you don’t have to wait until you’re charged to get a Michigan sex crimes lawyer. It’s a good idea to have a lawyer’s help when you’re questioned by police to make sure your rights aren’t violated and that your statements aren’t being taken out of context. You have the right to consult a lawyer at any time in the process — and to have one present if you’ve been arrested and police are questioning you in custody at a police station or a jail.

What is First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct?

There are several different ways that “first-degree criminal sexual conduct” is defined, and several types of action that may result in a first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge under Section 750.520b of the Michigan Penal Code if you’re suspected of committing one of them. Those include:

  • Sexual penetration of a child under age 13
  • Sexual penetration of a child age 13 to 16 who is a member of your household; related to you to the fourth degree; or over whom you hold a position of authority that you use to coerce penetration
  • Sexual penetration of another person while committing any other felony
  • Sexual penetration of another person when you are helped by one or more other people and you know that the victim is either mentally or physically incapacitated or you use force or coercion to rape the other person
  • Sexual penetration of another person when you are armed with a weapon or something the other person believes is a weapon
  • Causing personal injury to another person while using force or coercion to accomplish sexual penetration
  • Causing personal injury to another person during sexual penetration when you know the other person is mentally or physically incapacitated
  • Sexual penetration of another person you know is mentally or physically incapacitated and is a relative to the fourth degree or someone over whom you hold a position of authority that you use to coerce penetration

Force or coercion is defined as:

  • Using physical force or violence
  • Using threats of force or violence when the victim believes you have the ability to follow through with the threats
  • Using threats of retaliation when the victim believes you have the ability to follow through with the threats
  • Conducting an unethical or unacceptable medical exam or treatment of the victim
  • Using the element of surprise to overcome the victim

The statute also makes it first-degree criminal sexual conduct to use a position or relationship as a teacher, substitute teacher, school administrator, school employee, contractor, or volunteer to coerce sexual penetration or to establish a relationship with the victim.

Likewise, it’s considered first-degree criminal sexual conduct to use a position as an employee, contractor, or volunteer with a child care facility or foster care home to sexually penetrate a resident.

Penalties for a Conviction

A conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct is a serious felony offense in Michigan. You can be sentenced to any prison term up to life in prison, but there are specific sentencing requirements when the victim was a child at the time of the offense.

  • If you were at least 17 at the time of the offense and the victim was under 13, there’s a requirement for a minimum sentence of 25 years.
  • If you were at least 18 and the victim was under 13, the statute requires a sentence of life without parole.

Additionally, if you serve less than a life sentence after a conviction, the statute requires that you be electronically monitored for life.

However, the Michigan Supreme Court recently changed how sentences may be imposed in a case that ruled that judges, and not the Legislature, should be the ones to decide penalties for a conviction. That means judges may not have to follow the penalties stated in statutes written by the Legislature. Instead, the court said judges can order sentences that are “reasonable.” An experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney can explain what that might mean if you’re convicted.

Habitual Offender Penalty

If you have a prior conviction in Michigan for first-degree, second-degree, or third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a second or subsequent conviction requires that you be sentenced to at least 5 years in prison under Section 750.520f. You also may be considered a habitual offender if you have a prior conviction in another state for rape, carnal knowledge, indecent liberties, gross indecency, or an attempt to commit any of those offenses.

Defending Your First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Charge

In rape or sexual assault cases, it’s the prosecutor’s burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s not an absolute standard, but it is a rigorous one. There are a couple of ways that a prosecutor typically will attempt to tell their version of what happened: through the testimony of the alleged victim and through forensic evidence such as DNA samples.

Many rape allegations come down to the word of one person against the word of another person, particularly if the alleged victim didn’t come forward right away and there’s little or no physical evidence to support the story the prosecutor is telling. A good Michigan sex crimes lawyer will look for the inconsistencies or holes in that story, and there often are inconsistencies in sex offense cases, and then show a jury how those inconsistencies tell your side of the story.

When a prosecutor presents physical evidence that they say supports the allegation that you committed a sex crime, that evidence requires interpretation to tell the story of a possible sexual assault. Evidence must be processed and analyzed, and there can be mistakes made at any point in that process. A DNA sample may become contaminated, rendering inaccurate results.

Or the presence of DNA may not necessarily tell the story that a prosecutor wants it to tell. For example, if there’s a pre-existing relationship between you and the alleged victim, there are many reasons why your DNA might have been present other than a sexual assault, and that can create reasonable doubt. An experienced Michigan sex crimes lawyer will know how to look at evidence in rape cases, how to challenge expert testimony, and how to find experts to examine the evidence and tell your story.

Charged with a sex crime? Contact us today.

Your initial consultation will always be free and confidential. Call today or fill out the form below and we will help you.

Attorney Maurice Davis