First-degree criminal sexual conduct is the most serious type of sex offense that you can be charged with. It’s usually known as “rape” or “sexual assault” but can also encompass other crimes such as child molestation. The consequences for this crime are, understandably, very severe, and criminal cases involving sexual assault can be emotional and complicated for everyone involved.

Despite the law’s presumption of “innocent until proven guilty,” sexual assault charges usually come with a massive societal stigma. That’s why it’s so important to have a good lawyer who is well versed in sex crimes law on your side. In fact, it’s usually a good idea to already have a lawyer before you’re charged, as they can help protect your rights during a police interview.

By having a lawyer with you during the process, you can ensure that your statement isn’t taken out of context and that you don’t implicate yourself in a crime. Remember that it is your right to have a lawyer present at all times when speaking to the police, as well as when you’ve been charged and while you’re in police custody.

What is First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct?

First-degree criminal sexual conduct doesn’t refer to a single type of action but instead is defined in a number of different ways. This means that you can be charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct if you’re suspected of any of the following:

  • Sexual penetration of a child between the ages of 13 and 16 who is a member of your household, is related to you, or is someone who you hold a position of authority over that you can use to coerce penetration
  • Sexual penetration of a child under the age of 13
  • Sexual penetration of another person when you know the victim is mentally or physically incapacitated and you use force or coercion to penetrate the victim
  • Sexual penetration of a person when you are armed with what the victim believes is a weapon
  • Using force or coercion to accomplish sexual penetration and causing personal injury to the other person
  • Causing personal injury to a person during sexual penetration when you know the victim is either mentally or physically incapacitated
  • Sexual penetration of a person that you know is mentally or physically incapacitated and who is also a relative to the fourth degree or someone over whom you have a position of authority

It’s important to note that coercion and force are also legally defined:

  • The use of physical force or violence
  • The use of surprise to overpower the victim
  • The use of the threat of violence when the victim believes the perpetrator can act on the threat
  • The use of the threat of retaliation when the victim believes the perpetrator can act on the threat
  • The performance of an unethical medical exam or treatment

First-degree criminal sexual conduct charges can also be filed in the event that a person has used their position of authority – such as an employer, teacher, school administrator or volunteer – to coerce sexual penetration or establish a relationship with the victim.

Penalties

Convictions for first-degree criminal sexual conduct are, as you may expect, very severe. These penalties can include the following:

  • Incarceration up to a life sentence
  • Lifelong electronic monitoring
  • A permanent criminal record as a sex offender, which will result in loss or denial of employment and denial of an application for rental housing as well as restrictions on where you can live

Sentencing requirements are based on the age of the victim. If you were at least 17 at the time and the victim was 13 years old or less, you’ll be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison. If you were over 18 and the victim was under 13, you’ll receive a sentence of life without parole.

A recent, important change to the law in Michigan allows judges to impose sentences without having to follow statutes written in the legislature. This means that judges can use their discretion and order sentences that they consider reasonable. There’s a chance that an experienced attorney will be able to reduce a sentence below that required by the legislature.

If you have already been convicted of a first-degree, second-degree, or third-degree criminal sexual assault in Michigan, you will have to face a minimum of five years in prison for every subsequent conviction. You may also be considered a habitual offender if you have a previous conviction of a sexual nature in another state, such as gross indecency, indecent liberties, or rape.

What Happens If You’re Charged with First-Degree Criminal Sexual Assault

In any criminal case, it’s the job of the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charges, not your defense’s job to prove that you’re innocent. This is an important distinction, and both prosecutors and defense lawyers will do everything in their power to win their case.

Prosecutors will use the testimony of the alleged victim as well as forensic evidence to prove their cases, while the defense will look for holes or weaknesses that raise doubt about the prosecution’s case.

In the case of sexual assault charges, most of the cases boil down the word or one person against the word of another person, especially when there is no physical evidence or the evidence is lacking. Evidence of sexual assault needs to be processed and analyzed by a lab, and there are plenty of chances for the evidence to become contaminated or compromised.

If you’ve been accused of a sex crime, you need to have a lawyer that’s good at what they do, as the consequences of being charged with such a crime are severe. A good lawyer will be able to look at evidence and challenge expert testimony in order to cast doubt on the story the prosecution is trying to tell. If you’re facing charges of criminal sexual assault, give us a call. Our team of lawyers will be able to take your case on, look at the evidence, and tell your side of the story.

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