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.