Statutory Rape Lawyer in Michigan
Statutory rape refers to sexual intercourse with a person under the “age of consent.” The age of consent is set by statute, hence statutory rape. In Michigan, the age of consent is 16. So if you have sex with someone under the age of 16, even if the sex is consensual, you’ve committed statutory rape. If accused, hire an experienced defense attorney in Michigan.
That said, the term statutory rape is not strictly used in Michigan law (although it survives as a colloquialism). Instead, if you have sex with someone under the age of 16, you’ve committed third-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-III) under MCL 750.520d. (If certain aggravating factors were present—e.g., the victim was less than 13 years old, the offender used force or coercion, etc.—the crime could be elevated to the more serious first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-I) under MCL 750.520b.) CSC-III is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and lifetime sex offender registration.
Am I Guilty of Statutory Rape if the Victim Lied About Her Age?
Yes, you can be found guilty of statutory rape even if the victim lied about her age. Under Michigan law, statutory rape is a strict liability crime. That means you’re on the hook even if you made a good faith mistake about the victim’s age. So let’s say the victim looked much older than her actual age and even showed you a fake ID. Doesn’t matter. You’ve still committed a felony. Other states permit a reasonable-mistake-of-age defense to a charge of statutory rape. Michigan, unfortunately, does not. In 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court reconsidered whether to recognize a reasonable-mistake-of-age defense to statutory rape but ultimately left it a strict liability crime. Don’t expect the law in this area to change anytime soon.
Still, a reasonable mistake is not worth nothing. If you can prove that you were in fact mistaken about the victim’s age and that your mistake was understandable, the prosecutor may decide not to charge you in the first place. Or it may prompt the prosecutor to resolve the case on favorable terms, leaving you with no jail time, no criminal record, and no sex offender registration.
Will I Have to Register as a Sex Offender for Statutory Rape?
No, you will not necessarily have to register as a sex offender if you’re convicted of statutory rape. But you might. Under MCL 28.722, you will not have to register if (1) the victim was between 13 and 15 years old, (2) you were not more than 4 years older than the victim, and (3) you can show that the sex was consensual. This is just common sense. The 16-year-old who has consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend doesn’t deserve to be branded a sex offender for the rest of his life. In fact, in cases involving near-age peers, it will often be possible to secure a deferral under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), which leaves the client without a criminal record at all.
But what if you don’t meet the three criteria? Then you will have to register as a sex offender—for the rest of your life. Often, clients run into problems showing that the sex was consensual. It’s not unusual for the client to claim that the sex was consensual while the victim claims it wasn’t. In a he-said-she-said situation like this, the judge will usually side with the victim and require you to register. To persuade the judge that you’re telling the truth, you’ll need to present evidence beyond your say-so. What kind of evidence? It depends on the case. For example, in one case, the victim sent the client amorous postcoital text messages, which convincingly refuted her later claim that the sex was nonconsensual. In many cases, proving consent may require the client to successfully pass a polygraph examination.