Being charged with sex offenses can be life-changing. They can occur when a misplaced relationship goes bad, or from severe misconduct. The facts behind criminal sexual conduct are often vulgar, and private. In many ways, these crimes are different from drug offenses or other common felonies. When you are facing a sex offense, you want a criminal defense lawyer who knows the differences and can help you build your strongest defense.
1. Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges Are Confusing
There are many different crimes that have degrees of charges. The degrees may be based on the value of the items stolen, the amounts of the drugs involved, or the number of previous offenses. However, the degrees of criminal sexual conduct charges depend on two different variables: penetration versus contact, and whether there are aggravating factors. These factors could be:
- The young age of the victim
- The victim’s mental or physical incapacity
- A shared household between the victim and the defendant
- A blood or legal relationship between the victim and the defendant
- A position of authority of the defendant over the victim
- An employment, contract, or volunteer connection with the victim’s school
- An employment, contract, or volunteer connection with the victim’s child care organization or foster family home
- Any other felony involved in the act
- The use of force, the threat of force, or coercion to commit the offense
- The use of a weapon to commit the offense
- The use of concealment to overcome the victim
- Physical injury caused to the victim
Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) First Degree and Second Degree both involve one or more of these factors. Third Degree and Fourth Degree do not. However, First Degree and Third Degree include sexual penetration. Second Degree and Fourth Degree only involve contact.
Because of this, those who agree to a plea agreement for CSC, will often drop from First Degree to Third Degree or Second Degree to Fourth Degree. It is relatively rare to transition between penetration charges and contact charges, except when the prosecution fails to demonstrate that sexual penetration happened.
2. Sex Offenses Have Severe Consequences, Even Life In Prison
Criminal Sexual Conduct Fourth Degree is a rare 2-year “high court” misdemeanor. Sex offenses only get more severe from there. First Degree CSC has a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole. While there are other sex offenses, like indecent exposure, that have lower consequences, the most common sex offenses often involve long, and even mandatory prison time for any conviction.
3. Criminal Sexual Conduct Charges Are Often Based On He Said/She Said Evidence
Despite the complicated nature of CSC charges and their severe penalties, many CSC cases do not have an abundance of evidence. Often, a successful prosecution depends on the testimony of the complaining witness – the one claiming to have been the victim. Defending against these “he said/she said” cases depends on the credibility of the witnesses and building up other evidence to support your version of events.
4. CSC Trials Often Protect Child Witnesses
It is a key constitutional right for a criminal defendant to be able to face his or her accuser. In most criminal trials, this happens face-to-face, in open court. However, when CSC cases involve young children or vulnerable adults, the trial court judges will make exceptions to protect vulnerable witnesses. This could include testimony by video, screens, or other tools to keep a child witness from having to face his or her abuser.
5. Sex Offenses Carry Collateral Consequences, Like SORA Registry
The Sex Offender Registry Act, MCL 28.723 et seq, sets sex offenses apart from any other type of crime. The act imposes long-term, sometimes lifelong collateral consequences to defendants convicted of listed sex offenses. Because the registry is publicly accessible online, sex offenders are publicly shamed. The registration requirements also often result in secondary felony charges for failure to register.
Criminal sexual conduct and other sex offenses are different than any other kind of crime. If you are facing sex-related charges, make certain you have a criminal defense attorney who has experience with this specific area of the law. Otherwise, you could face unexpected consequences, even after the case is done.
The Cronin Law Firm has experienced attorneys to aid with whatever legal issue you’re facing. If you have been charged with any form of criminal sexual conduct, contact The Cronin Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.