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Michigan Penal Code Section 520b (MCL 750.520b): First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

First-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-I) under MCL 750.520b is the most serious form of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan. The statute generally applies to sexual penetrations of victims under particularly egregious circumstances.

CSC-I contains two elements, both of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. First, that the defendant engaged in a sexual act that involved one of the following:
    1. Entry into the victim’s genital or anal opening by the defendant’s penis, finger, or other object. Any entry, no matter how slight, is enough. It does not matter whether the sexual act was completed or whether semen was ejaculated.
    2. Entry into the victim’s mouth by the defendant’s penis. Any entry, no matter how slight, is enough. It does not matter whether the sexual act was completed or whether semen was ejaculated.
    3. Touching of the victim’s genital opening with the defendant’s mouth or tongue.
    4. Entry by any part of the defendant’s body or an object into the genital or anal opening of another person’s body. Any entry, no matter how slight, is enough. It does not matter whether the sexual act was completed or whether semen was ejaculated.
  2. Second, that the sexual act involved one of the following:
    1. The victim was less than 13 years old at the time.
    2. The victim was 13, 14, or 15 years old at the time, and one of the following:
      1. The defendant and the victim were living in the same household.
      2. The defendant and the victim are related by blood or marriage.
      3. The defendant was in a position of authority over the victim and used that authority to coerce the victim to submit to the sex act.
      4. Defendant was a teacher or administrator at a school where the victim was enrolled.
      5. The defendant was an employee, contractual service provider, or volunteer at a school where the victim was enrolled, and the defendant used his or her status to gain access to or establish a relationship with the victim.
      6. The defendant was an employee, contractual service provider, or volunteer at a child-care organization that the victim was attending.
      7. The defendant was a licensed operator of a foster-family home where the victim resided.
    3. The sex act occurred under circumstances that also involved a felony.
    4. The defendant was assisted by another person and
      1. The defendant knew that the victim was mentally incapable, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless, or
      2. The defendant used force or coercion.
    5. The defendant was armed with a weapon.
    6. The victim suffered personal injury and the defendant used force or coercion.
    7. The victim suffered personal injury and the defendant knew that the victim was mentally incapable, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.
    8. The victim was mentally incapable, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless and
      1. The defendant was related to the defendant, or
      2. The defendant was in a position of authority over the victim and used that authority to coerce the victim to submit.

As you can see, MCL 750.520b is an umbrella statute that criminalizes myriad forms of sexual abuse.

2. Examples

A 17-year-old man rubs the vaginal area of a 12-year-old. If the man’s fingers slightly separate and go between the vaginal lips (the “labia majora”), this is sufficient “penetration” under MCL 750.520b. And, as we’ll see below, given that the man is older than 16 years old, the penalty is a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

A man and his girlfriend, both adults, are having sex. She tells him to stop. Ignoring her, he grabs her arms and holds her down while he continues having sex with her. Afterward, the girlfriend experiences emotional trauma from the incident. The act of holding the girlfriend down establishes “force or coercion.” And the girlfriend’s emotional trauma could qualify as “personal injury.”

3. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Second-degree criminal sexual conduct, MCL 750.520c
  2. Third-degree criminal sexual conduct, MCL 750.520d
  3. Assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, MCL 750.520g

4. Defenses to First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Defenses in CSC cases usually take one of two forms: (1) failure to prove the elements or (2) consent.

Consider the example of the 17-year-old and the 12-year-old. Consent would not be a defense because the age of consent in Michigan is 16. Instead, the defendant would need to argue that the prosecution cannot prove the requisite elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Often, the defendant would try to show that the alleged penetration never happened. This would typically take the form of attacking the accuser’s credibility to try to persuade the jury that she’s not worthy of belief. For example, if the accuser had previously made a false allegation of sexual assault, this could be used to argue that the accuser is lying in this case, too.

Now take the example of the man and his girlfriend. The man could argue that the sex was consensual and that the girlfriend was either misconstruing the details of their tryst or else fabricating them. Alternatively, the man could argue that the girlfriend’s alleged emotional trauma was not severe enough to constitute “personal injury” under the law, which requires “mental anguish,” defined as “extreme pain, extreme distress, or extreme suffering, either at the time of the event or later as a result of it.” Under the latter strategy, the man would not be liable for CSC-I, but he could still be liable for a lesser form of CSC.

5. Penalties

CSC-I is punishable by up to life in prison or any term of years. If the defendant was 17 years old or older and the victim was less than 13 years old, the court must sentence the defendant to a minimum of at least 25 years in prison. In certain circumstances, if the defendant was previously convicted of a sex offense against someone less than 13 years old, the court must sentence the defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

For every CSC-I (except where the defendant is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole), the court must also order “lifetime electronic monitoring.” This means that even after the defendant is released from jail or prison, he or she will have to wear an ankle tether and be monitored by the government for the rest of their lives.

CSC-I also requires lifetime registration on the Michigan sex offender registry.

6. Criminal Defense for First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Cases

CSC-I offenses are the most serious sex crimes under Michigan law. The stakes—up to life in prison—are high. If you’re under investigation for or have been charged with CSC-I, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Grabel & Associates has been in business for more than 20 years and has handled hundreds of CSC cases. Our highly respected attorneys know what it takes to obtain the best result in your case.

For more information about CSC-I and to talk about your case, contact Grabel & Associates at (800) 342-7896.

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