If you have been accused of a sex crime involving a child in Macomb County, Michigan, then during a police interview or somewhere else along the way, you may have heard the phrase “CARE House” or “CARE House interview.”
But before we get to CARE House, you should understand that the Michigan sex crimes laws are broken-down into different “degrees.” While this doesn’t include all of the Michigan sex crimes, the basic ones are broken-down into four degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct (or “CSC” for short): Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree (up to LIFE in Prison); Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree (up to 15 years in Prison); Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree (up to 15 years in Prison); and Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree (up to 2 years in Prison). Each separate Degree has “multiple variables” – multiple ways you can be guilty of that Degree of CSC.
If you are accused of CSC on a minor, you are most likely facing charges of either Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree (if the accusation involves sexual penetration) or Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree (if the accusation involves only sexual contact). This is because 1st and 2nd Degree CSC are the Degrees that have multiple variables for alleged acts involving children under 13.
The Macomb County CARE House is simply a facility where they forensically interview children who claim that they are the victims of acts that amount to Criminal Sexual Conduct. Most counties have a child forensic interview center, often called “Children’s Advocacy Centers” (i.e. Wayne County has “Kids Talk,” etc.), and “CARE House” just happens to be Macomb County’s child forensic center. In a practical sense, a forensic interview means an interview conducted with an eye toward using it as evidence in a criminal prosecution (actually it deals with applying scientific principles, but it’s better to think of it as an interview for use in criminal prosecution). Sometimes, these interviews are referred to as “multidisciplinary interviews.” Here’s how a child ends up at CARE House…
A child themselves, a parent, school counselor, or other guardian contacts local Police stating that they believe the child has been sexually abused. A responding officer takes the initial report, and then the case is assigned to a Detective. The Detective, in conjunction with the Prosecutor’s Office, sets up a time for a guardian to bring the child to the CARE House facility in Mount Clemens.
Before the CARE House interview begins, a group of people from law enforcement gather at the facility. This group comprises the “multidisciplinary team,” or “MDT,” and it includes: the forensic interviewer who will actually interview the child (usually a licensed master social worker), the Detective (who will become the Officer in Charge or “OIC” if criminal charges are brought), an, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney from the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, a Child Protective Services worker (sometimes), interns, and others, depending on the specific case.
The whole idea behind the CARE House interview is to interview the child concerning the details as to how they say they were sexually abused in a way that comports with the State of Michigan Forensic Interviewing Protocol (set forth by the Department of Human Services). In a nutshell, the idea behind the Forensic Interviewing Protocol is to avoid an environment of suggestibility; to avoid doing things that obscure the truth or which might encourage the child to make a false accusation. Consider, for example, the difference between asking a child “Did something happen with your Uncle Joe?” versus asking “Your Uncle Joe touched your pee-pee, didn’t he?” Obviously, the second question is prone to getting a false claim of Criminal Sexual Conduct out of a child who is simply inclined (or coached) to say “yes” to everything. In short, it is supposed to produce a reliable disclosure of alleged Criminal Sexual Conduct.
During the meeting of the MDT before the child interview, the Forensic Interviewing Protocol requires the interviewer to examine any “alternative hypotheses” – reasons why the accusation may not be true. The ones that the MDT believes applies are checked off on a checklist, and they include: nothing happened; wrong suspect, malicious report, attention seeking, misunderstanding, word usage, witness only or exposure, hygiene/routine cleaning, and “other.” Supposedly, the MDT will make an honest assessment of all of those that may apply, and must disprove those hypotheses during the interview. However, this is not the reality of what probably happens in those little rooms behind closed-doors. Here’s another interesting fact…
The Michigan Forensic Interviewing Protocol for CSC cases states that: “the Governor’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect supports as a best practice the videorecording of investigative forensic interviews of children at child advocacy centers or in similar settings.” However, Macomb County CARE House willfully chooses, even in this day and age, to video record these forensic interviews. In-fact, they don’t even audio-record them. Quite frankly, it’s BS. As a matter-of-fact, while the child is being forensically interviewed by the social worker, the rest of the MDT watches at CARE House through closed-circuit recording. They even speak to each other via microphone during the interview (“make sure you get her to say this or that…”). That’s right, they have the resources and technology to install closed-circuit recording, but they can’t just simply videotape the interview so that the rest of the world can see that there is no manipulation going on in that little room.
Instead of video, they produce a “transcript.” What they call a “transcript” is an alleged document typed by people who are NOT certified transcriptionists, which supposedly states what the interviewer and the child allegedly said. It’s the same thing as a cop quoting what a witness allegedly says in their police report. Does anyone see the potential for more manipulation here? You should.
What is even worse is that, if they decide to pursue charges against you as a result of whatever happened in that little room behind closed-doors, manipulation or not, is that you and your Criminal Sexual Conduct Defense Attorney won’t be getting a clear-cut version of this so-called “transcript” of the dialogue between child and interviewer. Instead, you and your Defense Attorney will receive one transcript that is supposedly all of the questions asked, and another transcript that is supposedly all of the answers, in sequential order. One problem with this is that sometimes there are two questions and one answer, or one question and two answers. In a word, it’s a nightmare to try to piece together the exact dialogue. It almost seems like they do it on purpose. Hmm…
At the conclusion of the CARE House interview, the parent or guardian, as well as the interviewer, sign a form called “Consent for Sharing of Information,” which allows CARE House to share the information with the Prosecutor’s Office for prosecution, law enforcement, Children’s Protective Services, counselors, medical personnel, and others as they see fit to serve their purposes.
So…if you are accused of Criminal Sexual Conduct with a minor in Macomb County, Michigan, and there is a CARE House interview at play in your case, what does it mean for you? Here are some important things that you and your Michigan CSC Defense Attorney must know: