When sex occurs without consent, it is a sex crime. Under Michigan law, this includes vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral sex, and digital penetration. These offenses can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the nature of the individual offense. There are a few ways sex can occur without consent:
- Through force or threat of harm;
- Drugging the victim;
- Engaging in sex with an incapacitated individual who cannot consent to sex; and
- When the victim is under Michigan’s age of consent, which is 16.
The criminality of sex with an individual under 16 can be a fuzzy topic, especially when the other party involved is not much older.
Michigan’s Romeo and Juliet Law
Many states have “Romeo and Juliet” laws that permit consensual sex between adolescents and slightly older, yet legally adult, peers. These laws exist in acknowledgment that when there is an age gap in a relationship between two teenagers, the couple can reach a point where their relationship becomes illegal simply due to the older partner’s 18th birthday.
In 2011, Michigan enacted its Romeo and Juliet law. Under this law, an individual age 18 or under who is found guilty of engaging in consensual sex with a partner no more than four years his or her junior can petition to the court to avoid having to register as a sex offender. It is still a criminal offense to engage in sexual relations with an individual under 16, the age of consent in Michigan, and an individual who does can still face criminal penalties. But with Michigan’s version of the Romeo and Juliet law, teenage actions do not have to follow an individual for the rest of his or her life.
It is important to understand that being within four years of the victim’s age does not automatically mean an offender will not be required to register as a sex offender. It simply means he or she can petition to be kept off the registry. The court considers a variety of factors, such as both parties’ age and maturity levels and the nature of the offense, to determine whether to approve the petition.
Penalties for a Sex Crime Conviction
The penalties an individual faces for a sex crime conviction depend on the nature of his or her charge and the presence of any aggravating or mitigating factors. For example, sexual conduct with a child under the age of 13 charged as first-degree criminal sexual conduct, whereas sexual conduct with a child between 13 and 16 is charged as second-degree criminal conduct.
Penalties for sex crime convictions include:
- Prison time;
- Probation; and
- Mandatory registration with the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.
Even the lowest level sex crime convictions, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, can land a guilty defendant in jail and require him or her to register as a sex offender.
Below are three specific types of sex crime recognized by Michigan law. Within each of these categories, there are more specific ways offenses can be charged based on the circumstances at play in a case. Penalties for sex crime convictions include fines, incarceration, probation, and registration with the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.
Criminal Sexual Conduct
Any act of nonconsensual sexual contact is defined as criminal sexual conduct in Michigan. In other states, these offenses may be separated into different charges and referred to as “sexual assault,” “sexual battery,” and “rape.”
First, second, and third degree criminal sexual conduct are all charged as felonies. Fourth degree criminal sexual conduct is charged as a misdemeanor. Each degree includes various actions, and in some cases, a specific detail like the victim’s age can mean the difference between a higher or lower level charge.
“Sexting” is the term that refers to the sharing of sexually explicit images, videos, and content via text message, email, and social media. There is nothing illegal about sexting between consenting adults. When one or more parties involved in sexting are underage, though, all parties involved can be subject to possession and distribution of child pornography charges.
Child Pornography and Other Internet Sex Crimes
In addition to sexting, sharing, possessing, or distributing pornographic images of individuals under 18 via the internet, on discs, and via thumb drives is a criminal offense. Other internet-based sex crimes include:
- Soliciting a minor for sex via the internet;
- Lewd behavior using the internet;
- Using the internet to commit indecent exposure; and
- Soliciting prostitution via the internet.
Investigating Sex Crimes
With any criminal charge, thorough investigation of the case is critical to ensure that the truth and all relevant evidence are presented in court. With a sex crime, a thorough investigation is even more critical than it is with other types of charges because these charges often rely on conflicting testimonies, scant evidence, and unclear consent boundaries. By conducting a full investigation and taking a hands-on role from the moment you are arrested, your lawyer can ensure that your case is handled properly.
Work with an Experienced Bloomfield Hills Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or your child have been charged with a sex crime, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to start working on the case’s defense strategy. Reach out to Michigan Defense Law today to set up your consultation with our firm to discuss your case in detail and start developing an appropriate defense strategy.