Child Molestation and Sexual Abuse Attorneys in Michigan

Sexual abuse of a child is one of the most gravely serious crimes a person can be charged with. Child molestation and sexual abuse are particularly serious, because of the potential legal penalties, possible damage to a person’s reputation, and the potential for life-long registration as a sex offender. Every year there are thousands of reported instances of child sexual abuse and molestation in the State of Michigan. Last year there were 2,912 reported instances of Criminal Sexual Conduct first degree and Criminal Sexual Conduct third degree reported in Michigan. If charges with child molestation in Michigan, hire an experienced attorney right away.

Every year there are many individuals who are falsely accused of a sex crime. False accusations can destroy a person’s career, personal life, and reputation in the community. The motivation for a false accusation can vary widely, and sometimes it is an honest mistake made by a traumatized victim who does not know the true identity of their attacker. It is also not unheard of to have false accusations of child abuse as part of a child custody battle. These are just examples, and there are many reasons that could lead to false accusations.

Grabel & Associates is the premier sex crimes defense law firm in Michigan. We have been specializing in defense of sex crimes for more than 19 years and are capable of making a significant impact on the final disposition of your case. We represent all clients at any stage of the legal proceeding. Whether you have just learned of an allegation against you, have already been charged, or have been convicted and are investigating post-conviction relief and appeal options, Grabel & Associates is uniquely situated to help you improve the final outcome of your court proceedings.

Child Abuse and Molestation and the Law

Under the Michigan Penal Code, there is no law specifically for molestation. Instead, there are two types of conduct that are prohibited by law. These are enumerated in the Criminal Sexual Conduct Act and are prohibited sexual contact and sexual penetration. Therefore, sexual contact is the closest definition under the law to a typical definition for molestation such as groping, touching, and fondling. This portion of the law is found in the Criminal Sexual Conduct Act under MCL 750.520a(q). The criminal offenses that prosecutors use to charge people for sexual contact or molestation are criminal sexual conduct second degree and criminal sexual conduct fourth degree.

Sexual Contact Definition – Criminal Sexual Conduct Second Degree and Criminal Sexual Conduct Fourth Degree

Sexual contact is defined in MCL 750.52a(q) and includes a very broad definition of what constitutes sexual contact. Additionally, there is an element that the sexual contact must have been made for a sexual purpose to satisfy the statute. The definition in the statute of sexual contact states that an intentional touching of a victim’s intimate parts or the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victim’s intimate parts is a sexual contact if the intentional touching can be shown to be for a sexual purpose. Therefore, in order for the prosecutor to satisfy the first element, he or she must prove that an intentional touching of the other person occurred, and the touch was made to an intimate part of the body or the immediate clothing covering the intimate area. Intimate private parts include the breasts, vagina, or buttocks.

The second element is that the intentional contact was made for a sexual purpose. An accidental brush of a hand against someone’s buttocks or breast is not a crime under the Criminal Sexual Conduct Act, because it lacks the second element of being for a sexual purpose. The standard used for determining whether the contact was for a sexual purpose is a “reasonable person standard.” A reasonable person is a hypothetical objective observer that is often described as an objective reasonable person who is standing in the position of the person being judged. So, the question is not whether the accused intended to make a sexual contact nor whether the accused believed they were making a sexual contact, but whether a reasonable person in the same situation would believe that the contact was for a sexual purpose.

There are three different definitions of contact made for a sexual purpose the prosecutor can utilize to satisfy the second element that the touch was for a sexual purpose. First, if a reasonable person would believe the contact was for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification. Next, if a reasonable person would believe that the contact was made for the purpose of revenge. This element broadens the definition for what constitutes a contact for a sexual purpose, because revenge could mean many things outside of what would arouse or sexually gratify a person. Finally, the third definition for a sexual purpose is if a reasonable person would believe that the touch or contact was made to inflict humiliation or out of anger. Again, we can see that the definition of a sexual purpose is substantially widened by this definition, because any touch of a person’s private parts done out of anger or to humiliate someone would qualify under the reasonable person standard as being performed for a sexual purpose.

Sexual Contact Made for A Sexual Purpose

If an intentional contact is made of a person’s intimate areas, and a reasonable person in that situation would believe that the contact was made for a sexual purpose because it was meant to arouse, sexually gratify, inflict revenge or humiliation, or was done out of anger, then a prosecutor could argue a that a sexual contact occurred. Criminal sexual conduct second degree is much more serious, and is a felony with a 15-year maximum sentence, whereas, criminal sexual conduct fourth degree is only a misdemeanor with a two year maximum sentence.

Criminal sexual conduct second degree and criminal sexual conduct fourth degree are both general intent crimes, and therefore, the prosecutor only needs to demonstrate that a sexual contact occurred and was done for a sexual purpose. The prosecutor does not need to demonstrate that the person intended to molest or injure the other person.

When Does Molestation or Sexual Contact Become Penetration?

After reviewing and discussing the definition for a sexual contact, it is clear that the definition is very broad and inclusive. However, the definition for penetration is so broad, in fact, that what at first appears to be a sexual contact can actually be argued by the prosecutor to be a penetration offense. This distinction has significant ramifications, because if a prosecutor argues penetration was committed instead of a sexual contact, then the charge may be elevated to either a criminal sexual conduct first degree or a criminal sexual conduct third degree. Both charges are felonies with longer maximum prison sentences than the contact offenses of criminal sexual conduct second degree and criminal sexual conduct fourth degree. Additionally, if an incident is argued to be a penetration, then you do not have the possibility of a charge reduction to a criminal sexual conduct fourth degree, which is the only criminal sexual conduct that is a misdemeanor.

The definition for sexual penetration is found in MCL 750.520a(r) and is further refined by case law. The statutory definition for sexual penetration is sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any other intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or any other object into the genitals or anal openings of another person’s body. The statue specifies that emission of semen is not necessary for sexual penetration to have occurred. Consequently, according to this definition and case law, using fingers or hands to massage the opening of a vagina becomes a penetration crime if a finger is inserted into the vagina. Therefore, a sexual contact charge for molestation can quickly be elevated to the more serious charge of a penetration offense if the prosecutor has any indication that this type of conduct occurred.

Penalties for Sexual Molestation

The penalties for a sexual contact crime of criminal sexual conduct second degree or criminal sexual conduct fourth degree are very serious. A criminal sexual conduct second degree is a felony with a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Additionally, if a person is convicted, then they would have to register as a tier two sexual offender, unless the other person was younger than 13 years of age, and then the person would be required to register as a tier three offender under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA). However, criminal sexual conduct second degree does have the possibility of probation, so it is possible to be convicted of a criminal sexual conduct second degree and not go to prison.

A criminal sexual conduct fourth degree is the only criminal sexual conduct that is not a felony. Criminal sexual conduct second degree is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of two years in prison, and there is a possibility of probation. However, there is a mandatory sex offender registration, and the offense can be listed as a tier one, tier two, or tier three offense depending on the age of the victim and other factors.

Understanding the Law Can Make a Difference in the Final Outcome

It is very important to have an attorney who understands the law and how the elements affect the charges, because it is possible to be charged with one crime but convicted of another. Relevant case law has decided that if you prove at trial that you are innocent of the charge the prosecutor brought, then you can still be convicted of a lesser offense that was not initially charged. Consequently, an astute attorney will consider defending against the elements of lesser charges not initially brought at trial, because the ultimate goal is to avoid having any type of conviction on your record. Grabel & Associates is dedicated to educating people about the law and creating easy to use educational resources about the law. However, even if you are innocent and have a good understanding of the law, child molestation and sexual abuse cases are very complicated and clearing your name without the assistance of a competent attorney is very difficult.

Grabel & Associates Approach to Molestation and Child Abuse Charges

If you or someone you know is being charged with criminal sexual conduct or a related sex crime against a minor, then it is in your best interest to retain a competent and qualified attorney. At Grabel & Associates we take a global perspective to cases and want to ensure that all matters are properly vetted and investigated. Consequently, it is standard procedure to conduct a thorough independent investigation and complete any necessary fact finding. We pursue all evidentiary concerns, and when it is in your best interest, we interview all potential witnesses to preserve testimony and to potentially uncover inconsistencies in allegations. Another powerful tool that we use is polygraph lie detector tests. A polygraph can be a useful tool in assembling your case. These are only examples of steps we take in cases, but each case is different and we do what is necessary in each case to prepare and execute a comprehensive case strategy. Additionally, it is integral to success that the presentation at trial is concise, professional, and complete.

Grabel & Associates has been practicing criminal defense of sex crimes such as criminal sexual conduct for more than 19 years. Grabel & Associates is here to help you begin developing your own individualized, aggressive, and comprehensive legal defense strategy. We are available for free consultations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us at 1-800-883-2138 for more information or to schedule your free consultation today.

Michigan Sex Crime Attorneys Blog - Child Molestation and Abuse

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