What is Force or Coercion in a Michigan Sex Assault Case?

If you have been accused of a sex crime in Michigan, based on any one of the many sexual offenses contained in Michigan’s criminal laws involving sex assault, then you are probably wondering how to win your case or avoid the worse penalties including SORA registration and lengthy incarceration.

This is especially true if you’re facing false allegations, which unfortunately are common in the reporting of sex crimes. In Michigan allegations of sex crimes often come up in context of divorce. False memories can also sometimes result in false sex crimes allegations.

While there are many ways to obtain an optimal outcome, an important issue in sexual assault cases, or what Michigan broadly calls “criminal sexual conduct,” is to address the issue of force.

This is because one of the main characteristics that define the seriousness of the crime, and therefore the years in prison that constitute the maximum sentence, is based on the degree of force used by the alleged perpetrator.

Needless to say, this has nothing to do with existence or non-existence of sexual desire on behalf of the complaining witness. The use of force, unless consensual, is never lawful. This is true whether the sexual assault involves a mere unwanted touching, or a penetration of the vagina or other body part.

For these reasons, when facing the accusation of sexual abuse, it’s important to understand how law enforcement defines the term “force.” An important defense strategy for those charged with sex crimes is to show that the alleged sex offender did not use the requisite amount of force.

Note that force is not an issue however with some sex crimes or related criminal charges, such as child pornography. These crimes are covered elsewhere on our website.

What Is Force in a Michigan Sex Crime?

The degrees of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan includes 1st Degree through 4th Degree. One of the things that differentiates these crimes, and therefore the amount of potential prison time associated with them, is the way force is allegedly utilized by the accused.

Force, also known as coercion, is a legal term of art. It is a legal concept that is specifically listed or referenced in each of Michigan’s Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) offenses. Notice that force, sexual desire, sexual consent, the age of consent in Michigan, are not included in the definition.

Overall, Michigan’s Criminal Sexual Conduct law defines force as actual physical force, the threat of force, the threat to retaliate against the victim, extortion or threat thereof, kidnapping or threat thereof, concealment of something to commit the assault, surprise, or, in a medical environment, it fake or unethical medical procedures.

What Does Michigan’s Sexual Assault Law Say About Force?

The term force is defined by statute in Michigan. Criminal Sexual Conduct 1-3 all use the language listed in 520b(f)(i)-(v), but CSC 4 specifically states its own. There are only minimal or negligible differences, but it is important in every single case that an the best Michigan sex crimes attorney understands the subtle differences and the impact it may have on your case.

Another common legal technique in statutory drafting and arguing is the language used in each of the 4 offenses regarding force or coercion; which is, “force or coercion includes, but is not limited to, any of the following circumstances”.

The significance of this language is that the statutory list is not exhaustive. Therefore, additional acts or facts could support the argument of what is and what is not legally considered force or coercion. Another important factor is being in a position of authority.

In researching and analyzing statutes, and statutory interpretation, we also research the corresponding jury instructions. Jury instructions are provided to the jury members to help them understand the law, the language, and the elements of the case.

Now that we’ve broadly discussed these offenses involving sexual assault and force, let’s dig in a little deeper.

Force and Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

The Michigan sex crime called “criminal sexual conduct forth degree”, or CSC 4th Degree, is found at MCL 750.520e(b), and requires force or coercion to be used to touch the victim sexually. In a CSC 4th case, your criminal defense lawyer will need to defend the false allegations that force or coercion was used. Force includes, but is not limited to, any of the following circumstances:

  • When the defendant physically overpowers the victim
  • When the defendant convinces the victim to allow the assault by physically threatening the victim
  • When the defendant convinces the victim to allow the assault by issuing physical threats, including extortion, that will occur in the future if the victim does not allow the assault.
  • When the defendant uses fake or unethical medical procedures on the victim to accomplish the assault
  • When the defendant uses disguise or surprise to accomplish the sexual touching

Force Pertaining to 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 3rd Degree, or CSC 3, requires sexual penetration.

Michigan’s CSC 3 statute is MCL 750.520d(b) and states that force or coercion must be used to carry out the penetration. To define “force or coercion,” Michigan’s CSC 3 law references the CSC 1 law.

 Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and Force

Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 2nd Degree, or CSC 2, does not require penetration. Similar to CSC 4, CSC 2 requires “sexual contact.” Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree also references the CSC 1 law to define what is considered force or coercion.

The CSC 2 law says that the defendant must injure the victim in addition to using force or coercion to sexually touch the victim. Force or coercion includes, but is not limited to, any of the circumstances listed in section the CSC 1 law 750.520b(1)(f). This noninclusive list of what is force of coercion is nearly identical to the list discussed above in the CSC 4 statute.

What About Sexual Penetration?

Penetration is different and considered more serious than mere touching. Michigan law defines does require vaginal intercourse. Instead, “sexual penetration” as sexual intercourse, includes oral sex or sex with a vagina, with a penis, anal sex, or any other “intrusion” of the body.

Sexual penetration also includes the use of an object to accomplish the penetration, including digital or finger penetration. Additionally, Michigan law does not require that the penetration be for the purpose of sexual gratification.

 What About Sex Offender Registry?

Conviction of any of these crimes will require that the convicted sex offender register on SORA, which is the offender registry act in the state of Michigan. Speak to one of our sex crimes lawyers to learn how SORA registration be avoided in your case.

What to do if You are Accused of a Sex Crime in Michigan?

The first thing to do is make the phone call to the Barone Defense Firm. If you’re not sure if you should call, see our article “when do I need to hire a sex crimes lawyer?” It’s important to hire a lawyer early on because the police will be investigating the sex crime long before you receive charges. Hiring a lawyer early will also help you get bond rather than being stuck in jail.

Also, by hiring a lawyer early, we’ve been able to help many of our clients charge with a sex offense or or are facing false accusations of a sex act, avoid a felony conviction altogether. The lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm have done this with charges of CSC 2 and CSC 4, as well as a first degree CSC, just to name a few. This also helps you avoid having to register as sex offender.

When you speak to one of our sex crimes lawyers, don’t hold back any information. The phone call automatically triggers the attorney client relationship and all statements are protected by attorney client confidentiality.

To be properly represented in a Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct or sex crimes case, it is absolutely necessary be honest about what happened. This will help you avoid the worst punishment for a criminal sexual conduct case. The attorney client relationship and confidentiality will protect what you tell your lawyer.

Also, it is helpful for you to understand exactly what you’re charged with because this will help you now what to tell your lawyer. This includes understanding not only the statute and its language, but as part of your attorney client relationship your lawyer can explain also the jury instructions that apply to the sexual assault crime you are charged with. Your skilled sex-crimes lawyer can explain also all the necessary legal subtleties within our legal system.

Your sex crimes lawyer at the Barone Defense Firm will also recommend certain action steps and some of these are to help the Judge know that there is a low risk of re offense. This might include a psychosexual evaluation. Be sure to listen to and follow this advice.

If you are being investigated for and falsely accused of a sex crime, or have been charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct or a Sex Crime, contact the sex crimes lawyers defense team at the Barone Defense Firm today. The call is free and so is the advice. You might find out your sex crime case is far more defendable than you initially thought.

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