Third-degree criminal sexual conduct is also sometimes known as statutory rape. It’s a complicated case because oftentimes the victim and perpetrator don’t feel like they’re committing a crime. Many times, an alleged victim will willingly engage in sexual intercourse, but unlike other criminal sexual conduct charges, it’s not about whether the victim felt violated or not, it’s about who the victim is. The law defines certain individuals as being unable to provide consent in certain circumstances.

That’s why teenagers are sometimes charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, as they’re just the wrong age to be having sex with their girlfriend or boyfriend. In other instances, the accused may not even have known that the person they were having intercourse with was under the age of consent.

Another layer that complicates statutory rape charges is that volatile teens may sometimes use the charge as a way to get revenge on people in positions of authority over them, or failed crushes that weren’t reciprocated. These false allegations aren’t common, but they can be seriously life-affecting if they do happen.

What is Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct?

Any sexual activity involving minors over the age of 13 or persons with mental or physical disabilities can be subject to a third-degree criminal sexual conduct charge. To be more precise, you can be charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct if you engaged in any of these activities:

  • Sexual penetration using force or coercion
  • Sexual penetration of a person aged 13 to 16
  • Sexual penetration of a person that has a mental or physical disability that you’re aware of
  • Sexual penetration of some who is related to you and who is not your spouse
  • Sexual penetration of a student aged 16 to 18 (who was not emancipated or your spouse) where you worked as a teacher, substitute teacher, or administrator at the school or school district
  • Sexual penetration of a student aged 16 to 18 where you volunteered or worked at the school or school district, and you used your position to coerce sex or establish a relationship
  • Sexual penetration of a special education student aged 16 to 26 (who was not your spouse), where you worked as a teacher, substitute teacher, or administrator at the school or school district
  • Sexual penetration of a special education student aged 16 to 26 where you worked or volunteered to provide services to the student and then used your position to coerce sex or to establish a relationship
  • Sexual penetration of a minor of 16 years or older who is in foster care or group home where you worked or volunteered to help operate the foster home or group home

Penalties for Conviction of Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct is a felony offense, and if you’re convicted, you can face up to 15 years in prison. In addition to prison time, you will have a permanent criminal record as a sex offender, which will have massive consequences for your life. You will also have to face the social stigma associated with the label of “sex offender,” which will follow you around for the rest of your life. The consequences of having a permanent criminal record can include the following:

  • Restrictions from living in certain areas
  • Losing your job and being unable to find new work due to your sex offender status
  • Inability to secure a rental living space
  • Losing your professional license
  • Losing custody of your children

If you have been convicted of rape, indecent liberties, carnal knowledge, or gross indecency in any other state, you may also be subjected to habitual offender sentencing enhancements. If you’re considered a habitual offender, you may be sentenced to an additional mandatory minimum of five years in prison under Michigan statutes. If you have a prior conviction of a sex crime in Michigan, you will be labeled as a habitual offender and receive the minimum of five years in prison.

A recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court states that judges have the final say in your sentencing and don’t have to adhere to the legislature’s figures. This means that judges can use their own sense of the case to determine a sentence that they think is reasonable. This can have a huge impact on your sentencing, and a good lawyer will be able to explain all the implications of this ruling to you. A persuasive lawyer may be able to get the judge to adjust their sentencing in your favor, resulting in less prison time.

What to Do If You’re Charged with Third-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Whether you’ve already been charged or you’ve just been asked to speak to the police regarding the case, your first step should always be to hire a good sex crimes attorney. The sooner you call, the better. A good attorney will be able to protect your rights during a police interview and make sure that everything you say is taken in context and that it can’t be used against you unfairly.

If you’ve already been charged, you will want to get the best lawyer you can. Statutory rape is a tricky case due to the fact that both parties, victim and accused, may not actually feel that a crime has occurred. A good lawyer will be able to navigate the system and improve the likelihood that you get a result that you’re satisfied with.

Even if you are guilty of statutory rape by accident, your lawyer will still offer you plenty of options. You may be able to get your charge dismissed, especially if both parties were consenting and there is no evidence of coercion, or the lawyer may be able to convince the judge to show leniency in your case.

Being charged with statutory rape is an intensely traumatic experience, but it’s not one without hope. Your lawyer should always work tirelessly to ensure that you get the best possible result and that your rights and future are protected. In order to avoid the heavy consequences of a third-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction, speak to one of our lawyers today.

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