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Michigan Penal Code Section 520c (MCL 750.520c): Second-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Second-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-II) under MCL 750.520c is the second most serious form of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan (after first-degree). The statute generally applies to “sexual contact” of victims under particularly egregious circumstances.

CSC-II contains three elements, all of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. First, that the defendant intentionally touched the complaint’s genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock, or breast or made or permitted the complainant to touch the defendant’s genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock, or breast. The contact can also be with the clothing covering these areas.
  2. Second, that the contact was done for a sexual purpose or could reasonably be construed as having been done for sexual purposes.
  3. Third, that the sex 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.
    9. All of the following:
      1. The complainant was under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections.
      2. The defendant was an employee, contractual employee, or volunteer with the Department of Corrections.
      3. The defendant knew that the complainant was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections.
    10. All of the following:
      1. The complainant was under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections.
      2. The defendant was an employee, contractual employee, or volunteer with a private vendor operating a youth correctional facility.
      3. The defendant knew that the complainant was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections.
    11. All of the following:
      1. The complainant was a prisoner or probationer under the jurisdiction of a county.
      2. The defendant was an employee, contractual employee, or volunteer with the county or the Michigan Department of Corrections.
      3. The defendant knew that the complainant was under the county’s jurisdiction.
    12. All of the following:
      1. The defendant knew or had reason to know that a court had detained the complainant in a facility while the complainant was awaiting a trial or hearing or that a court had committed the complainant to a facility as a result of the complainant having been found responsible for committing an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult.
      2. The defendant was an employee, contractual employee, or volunteer with the facility in which the complainant was detained or to which the complainant was committed.

As you can see, MCL 750.520c is a wide-ranging statute that criminalizes numerous forms of sexual abuse.

2. Examples

A mother and her 17-year-old son move in with the mother’s boyfriend and his 15-year-old daughter. The son consensually touches the boyfriend’s daughter’s breast. Because the two are members of the same household and the boyfriend’s daughter is only 15 years old, the son is liable for CSC-II.

A man and a woman, both adults, go on a date. At some point, they begin making out. The man moves his hand toward the woman’s vaginal area. The woman grabs his hand and tells him to stop, but the man pulls her hand away and gropes the woman’s vaginal area over her clothes. Afterward, the woman experiences emotional trauma from the incident. The act of pulling the woman’s hand away establishes “force or coercion.” And the woman’s emotional trauma could qualify as “personal injury.”

3. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. First-degree criminal sexual conduct, MCL 750.520b
  2. Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, MCL 750.520e

4. Defenses to Second-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 15-year-old in a blended household. 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 sexual contact 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. In some CSC-II cases, it may be possible to argue that the touching was accidental or not done for a sexual purpose.

Now take the example of the man and woman out on a date. The man could argue that the touching was consensual and that the woman was either misconstruing the details of their date 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-II, but he could still be liable for a lesser form of CSC.

5. Penalties

CSC-II is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If the defendant was 17 years old or older and the victim was less than 13 years old, the court must also impose “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-II also requires lifetime registration on the Michigan sex offender registry if the defendant was 17 years old or older and the victim was less than 13 years old. In all other CSC-II cases, registration for 25 years is required.

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

CSC-II offenses are prosecuted vigorously. Even if you think the circumstances were innocuous, every CSC-II carries the potential for prison time. If you’re under investigation for or have been charged with CSC-II, 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-II and to talk about your case, contact Grabel & Associates at (800) 342-7896.

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