In Michigan, the age of consent is 16, and people who engage in sexual activity with children who are underage can be convicted of statutory rape (also called criminal sexual conduct). Michigan’s laws also prohibit teachers from engaging in sex with students aged 16 or 17 years old.
In statutory rape cases, the determinative fact is the age of the child. Even if the underage person pursues or agrees to the sexual relationship, the defendant can still face criminal conviction. Of course, people who commit sex acts against others without their consent can also be convicted of sexual assault or assault and battery. (For more information on these crimes, see Sexual Battery: Laws and Penalties, Simple Assault and Battery in Michigan, and Felony Assault and Battery in Michigan.)
Statutory rape in Michigan is prosecuted under the state’s criminal sexual conduct laws.
Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree involves sexual penetration (intercourse, oral or anal sex, or digital penetration, however slight) with any child under the age of 13 or a child between the ages of 13 and 16 when the adult is:
(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.520b.)
Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree involves sexual contact (sexual touching other than penetration, even over clothing, that is meant to arouse or gratify sexual desire) with any child under the age of 13 or a child between the ages of 13 and 16 when the adult is:
(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.520c.)
Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree involves sexual penetration (intercourse, oral or anal sex, or digital penetration, however slight) with:
(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.520d.)
Criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree is a lesser crime that involves engaging in sexual activity short of sexual penetration with:
(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.520e.)
In Michigan, people who lure or encourage children under the age of 16 to engage in any sexual conduct commit the crime of child enticement, even if no sexual conduct ever results. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.145a.) A common scenario that results in enticement charges is when a defendant meets a child online and then arranges to visit the child for sex.
Penalties for statutory rape depend on the age of the victim and the type of sexual conduct involved.
Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is a felony and punishable by at least 25 years and up to life in prison. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.520b.)
Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree and criminal sexual conduct in the third degree are also felonies. A conviction for either of those crimes can lead to as many as 15 years in prison. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 750.520c and 750.520d.)
Criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to two years in jail, a fine of as much as $500, or both. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.520e.)
Child enticement is a felony and can result in up to four years in prison and a fine of as much as $4,000. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.145a.)
Adults in Michigan who are convicted of sex crimes against children are required to register as sex offenders. However, people who are convicted of criminal sexual conduct based on consensual sexual conduct with children over the age of 13 who are not more than four years older than their victims are not required to register. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 28.722, 28.723.)
Defendants charged with statutory rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as “Someone else committed this crime,” or “The alleged conduct did not occur.” However, under Michigan’s laws, there are other defenses that can apply to statutory rape cases.
It is a defense to a charge of consensual sexual activity with a person under the age of 16 (or a student age 16 or 17) that the defendant and the child are married. (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.520l.) The marital defense is a remnant of the marital rape exemption.
Many states have enacted “Romeo and Juliet exceptions,” named after Shakespeare’s young lovers, to protect from criminal charges teenagers who engage in consensual sexual activity with other teens. Michigan’s statutory rape law does not exempt teens from prosecution for sexual penetration, but they are protected from prosecution for other sexual activity.
Michigan’s sex offender law (see below) does not require young people who are convicted of statutory rape to register. For example, a 17-year-old who engages in consensual petting with a 14-year-old could not be prosecuted for a crime. However, if the parties engaged in oral sex, the 17-year-old could face prosecution.
In most states, including Michigan, it is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the defendant mistakenly believed the child to be of age. This is true even if the child tells the defendant and others that he or she is older and looks and acts older. (People v. Cash, 351 NW2d 822 (Mich. 1984).)
Being convicted of statutory rape, like any sex crime, can have extremely serious consequences. If you are charged with a crime as a result of engaging in consensual sexual activity, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and help you navigate the criminal justice system so that you can obtain the best possible outcome.
If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, contact Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for online help and local resources.