What Does Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree Mean?
Michigan criminal sexual conduct offenses fall into four main categories, depending on the degree of severity.
Irrespective of the degree of charges you may face, all sexual offenses can hugely impact your life upon conviction.
Besides potential jail time, probation, and hefty fines, convicted offenders suffer damaged reputations and are subjected to sex offender registration under SORA.
If you are facing sex crime allegations, enlisting the services of a skilled criminal defense attorney the soonest you possibly can will improve your chances of beating your charges.
Luckily, most defense attorneys offer an initial free consultation which can help you better understand the nature of your case and if the lawyer is the right one for you!.
What Does Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree Mean?
In Michigan, criminal sexual conduct (CSC) fourth degree is the least severe of all criminal sexual conduct offenses involving unconsented sexual touching or sex crime contact.
Like criminal sexual conduct 2nd degree, criminal sexual conduct fourth degree differs from criminal sexual conduct first and third degree in that it does not involve sexual penetration.
Sexual Contact as Defined Under Michigan Law
Sexual contact refers to intentional touching of another person’s intimate parts or the immediate clothing covering those parts in a way that the alleged victim believes was for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, done for a sexual purpose, or in a sexual manner out of anger, revenge, or an intention to humiliate the other person.
Under Michigan law, causing the other person to touch the intimate parts of the offender also counts as sexual contact fourth degree.
Some of the body parts that are considered intimate under Michigan law include:
- Breast area
- Genital area
- Inner Thighs
Elements of Sexual Contact that Constitutes Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree
Like second degree CSC, criminal sexual conduct fourth degree involves intentional touching of another person’s intimate parts.
However, the two differ on circumstances surrounding the commission of the offense, such as the complainant’s age, among others.
Below are some of the defining elements of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct that set the crime apart from other categories of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan:
- Age of the Complainant
According to section MCL 750.520e(1)(a), if the complainant is over the age of 13, but less than 16, and the offender is more than five years older than the accused, the offender could potentially face a fourth degree criminal sexual conduct charge.
When determining the alleged victim’s age, Michigan laws follow the birth date rule, meaning that a person does not reach a specific age until their birth date. For example, if the complainant’s 13th birthday was one day away when sexual contact happened, they will still be considered 12 years old, meaning the offender will face a second degree criminal sexual conduct charge.
- Force or Coercion
Like other levels of CSC, if force or coercion were used to achieve sexual contact, the offender could potentially face a criminal sexual conduct fourth degree charge.
Under section MCL 750.520e(b), force or coercion may include:
- The application of physical force or violence
- Threats of violence and future retaliation
- Unethical examination practices of a medical professional
- The use of the element of surprise to overpower the other person
- The Complainant’s Mental or Physical State
Under Michigan law, a person will be guilty of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct for having unwanted sexual contact with a person considered mentally incapable, mentally incapacitated, or was in a state of physical helplessness.
The prosecution must prove the person knew or was reasonably expected to have known that the victim was mentally challenged or in a state of physical helplessness during the commission of the offense.
- Mentally Incapable: refers to a person that suffers from a mental defect or disease that renders them temporarily or permanently incapable of understanding the nature of their conduct.
- Mentally Incapacitated: a person is mentally incapacitated if they are rendered temporarily or permanently incapable of appraising or controlling their conduct due to a narcotic influence or any substance administered on the person without their consent or due to the commission of an act upon them without their consent.
- Physically Helpless: a person can be described as a physically helpless person if they are unconscious, asleep, or has a disability that renders them unable to communicate their willingness to participate in an activity.
- Blood or Affinity Relations
If the sexual contact occurs between a claimant that is related to the defendant by blood or up to fourth-degree affinity, and under the circumstances not prohibited in section MCL 750.520e, the offender will be guilty of criminal sexual conduct fourth degree upon conviction.
Under these circumstances, if the alleged victim held a position of authority over the claimant, which they abused to coerce the defendant into violating the law, the defendant can use it as a defense by providing evidence in court.
This law does not apply if the two parties are lawfully married during the commission of the alleged offense.
- Power Relationships
Michigan criminal sexual conduct laws put a lot of emphasis on power relationships.
Intentional touching of another person’s intimate parts by a person holding a position of authority over them and which they use to achieve sexual contact will result in a criminal sexual conduct charge.
Some power relationships that can result in sexual contact offenses include:
- Teacher-Student Relationship: if the claimant is at least 16, but less than 18 years of age, and is a student at a school, school district, or intermediary school district where the actor is a teacher, a substitute teacher, or an administrator, the offender will be guilty of criminal sexual conduct fourth degree upon conviction.
The same applies if the claimant is between 16 and 26 years of age and receives special education where the accused works as a teacher or administrator.
If the two parties involved are emancipated or lawfully married, this law does not apply.
- School Employee-Student Relationship: if the claimant is between the ages of 16 and 18, and a student at a school, school district, or intermediary school district where the accused is an employee, contractual service provider, or a volunteer during the commission of the alleged offense, the resulting charge will be a criminal sexual conduct fourth degree.
If the claimant is a student aged between 16 and 18 years of age, and receiving special education services at an institution where the accused is a teacher, substitute teacher, or administrator, the accused offender will be guilty of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct upon conviction.
- Foster Family Home Employee-Resident Relationship: if the claimant is aged above 16, but below 18, and is a resident of a foster home or a child care organization where the accused worked during the commission of the offense, the resulting charge will be a fourth degree CSC.
- Mental Health Professional-Patient: if the actor is a mental health professional and the claimant is a patient or was a patient to the defendant, and it’s less than two years from the time the claimant sought medical treatment from the defendant to the time of the said sexual contact, the resulting charge will be a 4th degree CSC.
Penalties for Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct
Under Michigan laws, fourth degree CSC is a misdemeanor crime (however, the courts treat it as if it were a felony).
It carries a statutory penalty of up to two years in prison and a maximum $500 fine. With that said, a judge may impose any other penalty they deem appropriate and reasonable, as directed by the Supreme Court.
According to the circumstances surrounding your charges, you can get a conviction of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct and not serve jail time. Therefore, it’s critical to hire a skilled attorney who knows how to handle sex crimes to increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
Sex Offender Registration
Depending on the victim’s age, CSC fourth degree can be classified as a Tier I, Tier II, or Tier III offense under SORA.
This means a person convicted of fourth degree CSC will have to register as a sex offender with the Michigan sex offender registry, if the following circumstances apply:
- If the complainant is below 13 years of age and the offender is more than 17, a conviction results in a Tier III offense that requires lifetime registration as a sex crimes offender
- If the alleged victim is between 13 and 18 years of age, a conviction will result in a Tier II offense warranting a 25-year registration as a sex offender
- If the alleged victim is over 18 years of age, the resulting offense will be a Tier I offense which warrants a 15-year registration in the Michigan nonpublic sex offender registry
Consequences of Being on the Sex Offender Registry
Being on the sexual offender’s registry is one of the biggest nightmares convicted sex crimes offenders have to live with.
Some consequences of being on the register include:
- A permanent criminal record as a sex crime offender, which can be very damaging to a person’s reputation.
- Job restrictions come with being on the registry, which means that you will not qualify for some jobs based on your record, such as working in a child-based institution. Additionally, most employers run a background check on all of their candidates, and being on the registry can be a red flag.
- Loss of professional licenses for teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, among others.
- It could affect your custody rights in case of a dispute.
- It could potentially affect your immigration status for non-Americans.
- Restrictions on travel. Although sex crime offenders are at liberty to travel, they always have to report to relevant authorities before traveling out of state. However, when traveling to foreign countries, some countries will not allow you to enter if you have a criminal sexual conduct charge on your record.
Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Cases Trial Process
Although 4th degree CSC is a misdemeanor, the justice system treats it as a felony.
Typically, a misdemeanor charge is handled at the district court level, however a felony charge starts at the district level and is completed in the circuit level court.
When facing a CSC fourth degree charge, you are entitled to a preliminary hearing at the district court level. Working with a skilled criminal sexual conduct defense attorney at this stage is critical because it can make the difference between your accusations moving forward to circuit court or being dropped.
If your case isn’t dropped at this stage, your case proceeds to the circuit-level court. The justice system does allow an accused to plead guilty or no contest at the district court level, however sentencing for a fourth degree CSC can only take place at the circuit court level.
This means one way or another; you have to go to both courts for your charge, unless your attorney succeeds at getting your charges dropped at the district level or negotiates with the state and gets the court to accept a lower sex crime plea, such as attempted fourth degree CSC.
Possible Defenses for Fourth Degree CSC
Facing a criminal sexual conduct charge is never a pleasant experience, irrespective of the degree of your charges. Upon a conviction, your life may change completely for the rest of your life.
Some possible defense strategies for a fourth degree CSC include:
- False Accusation: it’s not uncommon for a person to lay false accusations of sexual misconduct on others. If this is the case with your charges, your defense attorney can use false accusations as a strategy. However, you have to prove through evidence that your charges are false.
- Touching was Consensual: relationships can go sour, resulting in accusations of unwanted sexual touching even when it was consensual. However, to prove that your touching was consensual, you will need to prove it in court by providing evidence. With that said, this can only apply if the victim is over 16 years of age.
Contact the Skilled Michigan Sex Crimes Attorney Nicole Blank Becker Today!
When facing sex crime allegations, you need to have a lawyer you can trust on your side.
Nicole Blank Becker is an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer and is your best bet at getting sound legal advice and representation.
Besides her experience spanning over two decades, Nicole focuses on ensuring her client’s rights are upheld because she believes the charges don’t define a person. She works on building a solid attorney-client relationship that helps her clients feel free to share their side of the story without fear, knowing that their confidential or sensitive information is safe with her.
Don’t take a gamble with your life and reputation when facing criminal sexual conduct charges. Call Blank Law, PC at (248) 515-6583 or contact us online to book your free consultation and have the best Michigan sex crimes attorney working on your case.