Last updated on August 19, 2022

Understanding Michigan’s Age of Consent Law

In Michigan, the age of consent is 16 years old. A child younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual contact, even with another minor. Adolescents age 16 and older may consent to sexual contact with all others over the age of 16, except for in certain circumstances.

When an individual engages in vaginal, anal, oral, or digital penetration with a minor who cannot consent to sex, he or she may be charged with statutory rape. This offense is also known as criminal sexual conduct. If you find yourself or a loved one in this situation, it is imperative you consult with an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to get legal help.

In Michigan, There is No Romeo and Juliet Law

In many states, statutory rape laws permit consensual sexual contact between adolescents who are close in age. These exceptions are known as close in age exceptions, or “Romeo and Juliet” laws. Michigan law does not have a close-in age exemption – in Michigan, it is possible for an 18-year-old to be charged with criminal sexual conduct for engaging in consensual sex with a 15-year-old partner.

The Parties’ Ages Determine How Statutory Rape is Charged

Although Michigan does not have a close in age exemption to statutory rape charges like some other states have, the involved parties’ ages do have an impact on how an alleged act of criminal sexual conduct is charged. Additionally, the older party’s relationship with the younger party impacts how this offense is charged. Depending on the circumstances at play, criminal sexual conduct may be charged as a first, second, or third-degree felony or, in the case of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor. The penalties for this conviction include fines, incarceration, and required registration with the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.

When both parties involved in an alleged incident of statutory rape are minors, the older party may only be charged with this crime if the two engaged in oral sex or sexual intercourse. Other consensual sexual activities, like touching meant to arouse the participants, is legally permissible.

Although 16- and 17-year-olds may consent to sex with adults, they cannot consent to sexual contact with teachers and other school employees. When a school employee engages in sexual contact with an adolescent otherwise old enough to consent to it, the adult may face a third-degree criminal sexual conduct charge. If the child was between 13 and 16 years old when the sexual contact occurred, the adult faces a second-degree charge.

Mistaking a minor to be older than his or her actual age is not a valid defense to a statutory rape charge in Michigan.

Violating the Age of Consent in Michigan

In Michigan, it is considered third-degree criminal sexual misconduct or statutory rape if someone violates the age of consent. Michigan law states that anyone under 16 cannot consent to any sexual activity. If someone commits a sex act with a person under the age of 16, they may be charged with violation of the age consent. This is a felony charge.

Michigan’s criminal sexual misconduct penalties are severe. They often include a sentence of imprisonment and high fines. People convicted for criminal sexual misconduct may be subject to surveillance throughout their entire lives. This means they must register as sex offenders, which can have a significant impact on their future.

Apart from statutory rape, there’s also the crime of engaging in the sexual penetration of a child under 13 years old. This carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, but at times sentences can be even more severe.

It is important to remember that Michigan’s sexual activities are not limited to sex acts. If proven beyond a reasonable doubt, even touching over clothing could be sufficient to convict someone of criminal sexual activity.

If you make an honest error and believe the person with whom you were having sex was over the age of consent, what happens? Making a mistake is not considered a defense. You will be charged with criminal sexual activity. Even if an underage person lies to you, or claims they are older than you, this rule still applies.

Work with an Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer

Although you cannot defend your case against a criminal sexual conduct charge by claiming you did not know your young partner’s true age, you can fight the charge through other legal defense strategies. To learn more about these strategies, your rights, and how to approach this type of charge, contact Michigan Defense Law today to set up your legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

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