A former NFL linebacker, Telvin Smith, was recently arrested under suspicion of sexual assault of a minor. Mr. Smith is being prosecuted in Florida where the sex crime is alleged to have occurred. The charge is considered a felony of the second degree, which is punishable by up to 15-years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Under Florida law, this charge means that a person over the age of 24 has engaged in sexual activity with a person who is either 16 or 17 years of age. Further, ‘sexual activity’ is defined to include oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by the sexual organ or by any other object. Smith was arrested, processed, and released after posting a $50,000 bond.
If Mr. Smith had been charged in Michigan, he’d be charged under a law that refers to sexual assault crimes more broadly as Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC). In Michigan, CSC 1st and 3rd degree are the two statutes that involve or require penetration as an element of the offense. A CSC 1st is the most serious. Every crime is made up of elements, and in a Michigan sex assault crime, the age of the victim is an element of the crime. Pursuant to Michigan law it is illegal to engage in sexual penetration with another person who is at least 13 but less than 16. The age 16 is significant because it is the Michigan age of consent.
In Michigan, a minor may not legally consent to sexual intercourse, penetration, or contact until the age of 16. Even if considered consensual between the two people it is not legal consent and therefore subject criminal charges that could or would most likely include CSC 3rd. That decision could cause severe short term and long term consequences that include up to 15 years in prison, and 25 years of registering on the Sexual Offenders Registry.
There are exceptions to the age of consent. For example, Michigan law indicates that it is an unlawful sexual assault to engage in sexual penetration when the victim is 16 or 17 if the defendant is a teacher, or other similar position of authority. Further, Michigan law does not consider the age of the defendant except for CSC 4th degree, which is a sexual contact and not penetration. The law for CSC 4th states that a person is guilty if they have sexual contact with another person wherein the other person is between the ages of 13 to 16 and the defendant is more than 5 years older.
Every state has similar yet different laws. The crime alleged in Smith case involves two main elements, age and penetration. According to reports, he is 29, and therefore, over 24 years of age required in the law, and she must be 16 or 17. If that is established, then the prosecution must prove that penetration occurred within the definition within the law. In Florida it is called “unable sexual activity.”
The $50,000 bond in the Smith case is also noteworthy. In Michigan, some judges set bonds for sex crimes as low as “personal recognizance” where the defendant does not pay any money for release, while others might set a bond in a sexual assault crime as high as $250,000. When setting a bond in a Michigan criminal sexual assault case, the judge will consider many different things. The future appearance of the defendant, or assurances that the defendant will return to court when scheduled, and protection of the public, are the two main determining principles when setting a bond by the court. The Court will also evaluate the defendant’s history or lack of criminal history, their residency and employment, and of course the nature of the current charge. A judge can also deny bond altogether. Under the Michigan Court Rules a bond can be denied when a person is charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) in the 1st Degree ‘if the court finds that proof of the defendant’s guilt is evident….’. Obviously, innocent until proven guilty only goes so far in our judicial system and court rules.
At the Barone Defense Firm we have found, after many decades of practice, that sex crimes are sometimes committed by people who intend no harm. They may find themselves in a legal situation involving allegations of sexual assault due to their own ignorance of the law or circumstance. Other times it may simply be an understandable mistake, while in still others, the criminal assault allegations may be due to a vindictive and upset victim or family member. Criminal sexual conduct crimes always involve difficult topics that are not pleasant to discuss.
Michigan sex assault crimes may also involve facts that are unclear and difficult to understand, and the law is extremely complicated. This can all result in false or unfair allegations of sexual assault and CSC charges may arise. If you have questions, or need guidance with a sexual assualt case, a Michigan sex crimes lawyer at the Barone Defense Firm can answer your questions. Our team is here to for you.