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Michigan Penal Code Section 520e (MCL 750.520e): Fourth-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-IV) under MCL 750.520e, although technically the least severe degree of criminal sexual conduct, is still a serious crime. The statute generally applies to “sexual contact” of victims under specified circumstances.

CSC-IV 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 sexual act involved one of the following:
    1. The victim was 13, 14, or 15 years old and the defendant was 5 or more years older than the victim.
    2. The victim was 16 or 17 years old and the defendant was a teacher or administrator at a school where the victim was enrolled.
    3. The victim was 16 or 17 years old and 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.
    4. The victim was 16 years old but less than 26 years old and receiving special education services and the defendant was a teacher or administrator at a school where the victim was receiving special education services.
    5. The victim was 16 years old but less than 26 years old and receiving special education services and the defendant was an employee, contractual service provide, 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 victim was 16 years old or older and the defendant was an employee, contractual service provider, or volunteer at a child care organization or a person licensed to operate a foster family home in which the victim was a resident.
    7. The defendant is a mental health professional and the sexual contact occurred during or within 2 years after the period in which the victim was a client or patient.
    8. The defendant used force or coercion to commit the sex act.
    9. The victim was mentally incapable, mentally incapacitated, or physical helpless and the defendant knew or should have known this.
    10. The defendant was related to the victim by blood or marriage to the third degree.

As you can see, MCL 750.520e criminalizes several different forms of sexual abuse.

2. Examples

A man goes out to eat with some friends at a restaurant. He has too much to drink. As their waitress is walking away from the table, he pats her on the butt.

A 21-year-old man meets a woman at a party. She tells him she’s 18. They start making out, and he consensually grabs her breast. Later, she tells him she’s actually 15.

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

4. Defenses to Fourth-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 drunk man patting the waitress on her behind. The fact that he was drunk (known as “voluntary intoxication” in the law) does not absolve him. But he may be able to argue the contact was somehow unintentional. The credibility of this defense will depend on the specific facts. For example, if his friends all testify that he was gesticulating during a heated conversation and that the contact was accidental, the defense could be viable. Alternatively, the man could argue that the contact was not sexually motivated. Again, the credibility of this defense will depend on the specific facts. If, say, the pat was accompanied by a lascivious comment, it will be difficult to argue that the pat was not sexually motivated.

Now take the 21-year-old man and the 15-year-old posing as an 18-year-old. He’s not in trouble because she lied about her age, right? Wrong. Under Michigan law, no matter how reasonable it was for the man to assume that the girl was 18, this is not a defense (other states, though, do recognize a reasonable-mistake-of-age defense in this kind of situation). Is he out of luck? Not necessarily. The man may be eligible for a deferral under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), MCL 762.11 et seq. In most cases, if the defendant successfully completes a probationary term, a conviction will not be entered on their record and they will not have to register as a sex offender.

5. Penalties

CSC-IV is what’s referred to as a “high court misdemeanor.” It’s punishable by up to 2 years in prison.

There are also sex offender registry consequences for CSC-IV. If the victim was less than 13 years old and the defendant was 17 years old or older, lifetime registration is required. If the victim was 13 or older but less than 18, the defendant will have to register for 25 years. If the victim was 18 or older, the defendant will have to register for 15 years on a nonpublic list.

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

Although it’s the least serious form of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan, a CSC-IV conviction can still land you in prison and sometimes on the sex offender registry for the rest of your life. If you’re under investigation for or have been charged with CSC-IV, you need to hire an experienced 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-III and to talk about your case, contact Grabel & Associates at (800) 342-7896.

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