What Does Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree Mean?
Michigan laws are tough regarding criminal sexual conduct offenses.
There are four different degrees of criminal sexual conduct. Anyone found guilty of any of the four criminal sexual conduct (CSC) crimes may be looking at lengthy prison terms, lifetime electronic monitoring, costly fines, and a permanent record as a sex crime offender.
Defending any degree of CSC charges requires an attorney who will not back down.
The stigma that attaches to these types of cases is one in which the jury presumes the person is guilty, and the defense’s task will be to change their perception. That is why it’s nearly impossible to get out of sex crime charges unless you work with the best sex offender lawyers.
What Does Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree Mean?
Third degree criminal sexual conduct, formerly referred to as statutory rape, is a felony offense involving the sexual penetration of a victim below 16 – Michigan’s legal sexual consent age.
It has a close relationship with the more serious felony offense called criminal sexual conduct 1st degree, in that both offenses involve sexual penetration.
In a criminal sexual conduct third degree charge, oftentimes the complainant may not believe they were victimized. The complainant may have willingly consented to the sexual act, but Michigan state law defines it as a crime because of the age of the complainant.
For example, a teenager aged 17 can be charged with statutory rape for having consensual sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend, aged 15.
Under section 750.520d, sexual penetration must happen for the accused to be charged with third degree CSC.
Sexual penetration refers to sexual intercourse, fellatio, cunnings, anal intercourse, or any form of penetration, no matter how slight into another person’s genital or anal openings. Emission of semen is not required for a person to be charged with the offense.
According to a ruling by Michigan’s Court of Appeals, putting a finger in another person’s vaginal or anal opening can also be considered sexual penetration.
Elements of Sexual Penetration that Constitutes Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one or more of the following aggravating circumstances exist for the accused to be convicted:
- Victim is Aged Between 13 and 16 Years
If the complainant was older than 13 years old, but younger than 16 years old, during the commission of the offense, the resulting charge is third degree CSC.
Michigan follows the birth date rule, meaning a person does not reach a qualifying age until their date of birth.
Therefore, in Michigan, if an individual is 12 years and 364 days old, they cannot be considered 13. Under such circumstances, the accused person is guilty of first degree criminal sexual conduct, upon conviction.
- Force or Coercion
Under section 750.520d of Michigan criminal law, if force or coercion is used to achieve sexual penetration or accomplish sexual battery, the defendant could face criminal sexual conduct in the third degree charges.
Force or coercion, as defined under section 750.520b, includes the following circumstances:
● Application of physical force or violence
● Threats of violence or force
● Threats of future retaliation
● When the accused is a medical practitioner and engages in an unethical manner
● The actor uses an element of surprise to overpower the victim
- Victim is Mentally Incapacitated or Physically Helpless
CSC 3rd Degree charges may arise if, during the commission of the offense, the offender knew or was reasonably expected to know that the victim was mentally incapacitated or physically helpless.
However, the charges will elevate to first degree CSC if the offender had accomplices who aided them in achieving sexual penetration or accomplish sexual battery against a mentally incapacitated or physically helpless victim.
- Relationship by Blood or Affinity
If the statutory rape involves a complainant related by blood or up to fourth degree affinity to the accused, but is not their spouse, sexual penetration charge will be a criminal sexual conduct charge third degree.
Nevertheless, if the victim held a position of authority over the accused, the offender could use it as a defense.
- Power Relationship
Under Michigan law, penetration involving a student (victim) aged between 16 and 17 years and a teacher or a school district employee, under any capacity in a school, may lead to a third degree CSC charge. With that said, this law may not apply if the accused and the complainant are legally married.
If sexual penetration involves a student aged between 16 and 25, who is receiving special education in an institution where the accused used their position to coerce the student into submission, the resulting offense will be criminal sexual conduct in the third degree.
Position of power, in this case, could refer to a teacher, contracted worker, volunteer, or a government official assigned duties at the institution. Nonetheless, this law may not apply if the accused and the complainant are legally married.
If the actor is an employee under any capacity in a children’s facility, and the victim is at least 16 years old and a resident of the children’s facility in question, during the commission of the offense, the crime will result in a third degree criminal sexual conduct charge.
Penalties for Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct
CSC third degree is a felony offense.
If found guilty of criminal sexual conduct 3rd degree, the offender will be guilty of a crime that will carry penalties of a felony punishable with a jail sentence of up to 15 years. If the offender had prior sex-related offenses, repetitive offender enhancement sentencing might apply.
It’s important to note, following the Supreme Court’s ruling that placed the responsibility of determining reasonable sentences on the judges, a judge is at liberty to use the statutory penalties as a guideline, but is not limited by them when making judgments.
Sex Offender Registration
CSC in the third degree is a felony categorized as a Tier III offense under SORA. In other words, a convicted individual will be required to register as a sex offender and remain on the registry for the remainder of their life.
With that said, even when the accused is guilty of statutory rape, they may be exempte from sex offender registration if the following circumstances apply:
● The sexual intercourse was consensual
● The alleged victim was at least 13, but younger than 16 years of age, and
● The offender was less than four years older than the complainant
Possible Defenses for Third Degree CSC
The most basic defense for a criminal sexual conduct in the third degree charge is to claim your innocence.
This defense strategy is only possible if the accused can prove in court that they were not at the crime scene as alleged by the complainant. Under such circumstances, the accused will need to have a solid alibi and credible evidence to support their claim.
If the alleged victim is 16 years and above, the accused may use consent as a defense strategy by providing evidence.
Additionally, the offender may plead insanity, which would require proof through psychiatric evaluation and treatment.
Let Criminal Defense Attorney Nicole Blank Becker Handle Your Case Today
If you or someone close to you is under investigation for criminal sexual conduct, hiring a skilled sex crimes lawyer should be your first priority.
Nicole Blank Becker is an experienced sexual conduct lawyer based in Michigan with over two decades of experience in state and federal criminal law. What’s more, Nicole’s firm is solely focused on sex crimes, meaning that she knows all the ins and outs of defending every type of sex crime.
Nicole has seen it all in her twenty years of practice and understands bad things can happen to good people. She never passes judgment on her clients based on their charges.
Instead, she focuses on building a solid attorney-client relationship, which puts her clients at ease knowing that their sensitive information is safe.
Don’t entrust your freedom and future with any lawyer; your case has a high chance of a better outcome if it’s handled by a lawyer solely focused on sex crimes.
To get Nicole Blank Becker on your case, contact Blank Law, PC at (248) 515-6583 or contact us online to book a free consultation today.