Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, or indecent liberties, is a misdemeanor offense that consists of unwanted sexual touching. This conduct includes touching someone for sexual gratification who is a minor, has mental or physical disabilities, is a close relative, or is someone with whom you have an imbalanced power relationship, such as teacher/student or mental health provider/patient.

All criminal sex offense charges should be taken very seriously due to the impact they can have on your life. If you’re convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct or certain other sex crimes, you have to register as a sex offender, which carries a social stigma and can affect all aspects of your life, from finding work to where you can live.

Luckily, in the event that you are charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, you still have options. There are many ways to handle such a charge, and a good sex crimes lawyer will be able to evaluate your case and find the best way to proceed. Sometimes, the best option is to fight the charge, in which case you’ll need a lawyer who is experienced and familiar with these trial proceedings.

What is Fourth-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct?

Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct encompasses a variety of different situations and instances involving unwanted sexual touching. It can include the following:

  • Sexual contact with a minor between the ages of 13 and 16, where you are five years older than the victim
  • Using force or coercion to achieve sexual contact with another person
  • Sexual contact with someone that you know to be mentally or physically disabled
  • Sexual contact with someone who is related to you in the third degree with the exception of your spouse
  • Sexual contact between you and a client or patient if you are a mental health professional and less than two years have passed since you treated the patient (unless that person is your spouse)
  • Sexual contact with a student between the ages of 16 and 18 where you worked for the school as an administrator, teacher, substitute teacher or school district employee (unless the person is emancipated or your spouse)
  • Sexual contact with a student between the ages of 16 and 18 where you are a school district employee or volunteer and use your position of authority to establish a relationship
  • Sexual contact with a special education student between the ages of 16 and 26 where you were employed at the school or in the school district (unless the person is your spouse)
  • Sexual contact with a special education student aged between 16 and 18 where you were a volunteer or government service provider and used your position to establish a relationship
  • Sexual contact with a resident of a foster family or group home who is 16 years or older, where you were in a position of authority, such as an employee, service provider or volunteer in the home or facility where the victim lived

For the purposes of the law, force and coercion include the use of physical force or violence, the threat of force, retaliation or violence where the victim believes you’ll follow through on the threat, the use of concealment or surprise, or the performing of a medical treatment with unethical and unacceptable purposes.

Consequences of a Fourth-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Conviction

If you are convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, you can face up to two years in prison and $500 in fines. Despite the fact that a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction is “only” a misdemeanor, it can still have life-altering consequences. You will also have a permanent criminal record as a sex offender which carries with it an enormous social stigma. You may also face the follow:

  • Restrictions on where you can live
  • Loss of any professional license you hold
  • Loss of your job and difficulty in finding a new one
  • Difficulty in finding a rental property
  • Loss or reduction of the custody of your children
  • Change of your immigration status if you’re not a US resident, including denial of a visa or green card and deportation

Also, due to a recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court, judges are able to hand down sentences that they consider reasonable instead of being bound by the guidelines of the legislature. This can have an impact on your case and the sentence you receive, so it’s vital to discuss this with your criminal defense lawyer to find out how it can affect you.

What to Do if You’re Charged with Fourth-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Your first step should always be to find a reputable lawyer. There are many lawyers in Michigan who have experience with sex crimes. When looking for a lawyer, check up on their track record to see if they’re aggressive and willing to fight on their client’s behalf. Many law firms will also have free initial consultations so you can discuss your case with a professional before committing to anything.

It’s a good idea to have a lawyer with you during each step in the process, from the original police investigation right up to the trial. This way the lawyer will be very familiar with the ins and outs of your case and will be able to protect your rights at all times.

Even being charged with a sex crime can cause emotional damage to families and relationships, and trials tend to be very emotionally charged and complex. Often it boils down to a case of “he said, she said,” so it’s vital to have a lawyer who can represent your perspective.

A great lawyer is one who can tell your side of the story while attacking the prosecution’s version of events. Remember that you don’t need to prove your innocence. Instead, the prosecutor has to prove that you’re guilty, and that can be more difficult than it seems. Most stories have inconsistencies that a good defense lawyer can pick up on and use to your advantage.

If you’ve been charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and want to find out what your options are, why not give us a call? Our lawyers will examine your case and develop a strategy to help you move forward.

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