Sexual conduct with someone who is closely related to you is a crime under Michigan law. Criminal Sexual Conduct charges in Michigan can become more severe if you are related to the alleged victim and they are “at least 13 but less than 16 years of age.” Sexual conduct with a relative is commonly known as “incest,” and Michigan punishes different levels of incest based on the relationship and the age of the accuser. In this article, top rated Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian J. Prain explains the circumstances where this can occur. But first, a basic understanding of the “degrees” of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan (“CSC”) will be necessary.
The basic Michigan CSC charges are broken down into four basic degrees. The first question is: Was there penetration, or just sexual contact (touching) alleged? The definition of penetration under Michigan’s CSC laws means penetrating any part of the alleged victim’s body with any part of your body (even slight entry is enough), or oral sex (fellatio or cunnilingus). If penetration is alleged, the charge would be either 1st Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct or 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. 1st Degree CSC, which is punishable by up to LIFE in Prison, is more serious than 3rd Degree CSC, which is punishable by up to 15 years in Prison.
The definition of sexual contact under Michigan’s CSC laws is touching for sexual purposes (or reasonably construed as for sexual purposes) of the alleged victim’s genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock, breast, or the clothing covering these areas. This includes making the alleged victim touch these areas on you. If sexual contact is alleged, the charge would be either 2nd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct or 4th Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. 2nd Degree CSC, which is punishable by up to 15 years, is more serious than 4th Degree CSC, which is punishable by up to 2 years in Prison.
Whether an alleged penetration or touching is charged as the more serious or less serious version of penetration or touching depends on whether certain “multiple variables” are present. To restate that in plain English, it means it depends on if certain things are alleged that make the crime worse. For example sexual penetration with a weapon by force or coercion is 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, while sexual penetration by force or coercion with the additional factor of a weapon being used is 1st Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Get the picture?
For more information on what multiple variables separate the degrees of CSC charges in Michigan, visit our Main Sex Crimes Page.
Any form of sexual penetration or sexual contact with a close relative could leave you facing Criminal Sexual Conduct charges in Michigan. The “related by blood or affinity” factor is simply one of those many factors, or “multiple variables” that make a sexual penetration or touching more serious, increasing a 4th Degree CSC to 2nd Degree CSC, or a 3rd Degree CSC to a 1st Degree CSC whenever the alleged victim is “at least 13 but less than 16 years of age.” The Michigan CSC laws say that if the alleged victim is “at least 13 but less than 16 years of age” and the accused person is “related by blood or affinity to the fourth degree to the victim,” the charge can be increased to First Degree CSC (for penetration cases) or Second Degree CSC (for touching cases).
Things can change if the alleged victim is a little older, though. If the alleged victim is 16 or older, and is only “related by blood or affinity to the third degree” (rather than fourth degree), then the charge would be Third Degree CSC (for penetration cases) or Fourth Degree CSC (for touching cases).
According to the Michigan Supreme Court in a case called People v. Jajaczkowski, being related by blood means having a common ancestor, and being related by affinity means being related as a result of marriage. As for the “degrees” of relation:
Note that REGARDLESS of whether they are a relative or what the relationship is, ANY sexual conduct with ANY person under 13 years of age is automatically either 1st Degree CSC (for penetration cases) or 2nd Degree CSC (for touching cases).
Here are some examples of sexual conduct between relatives and the corresponding Michigan CSC charges:
Just because you could be charged with a more serious degree of CSC based on a family relationship to the alleged victim doesn’t always mean the Prosecution will initially charge you with that more serious degree. But they can add those charges later, such as at the Preliminary Exam should you choose to hold the hearing, rather than waive it. Having an experienced Criminal Sexual Conduct Defense Attorney could mean the difference between spotting that possibility in your case and taking appropriate action or being charged with a LIFE offense by surprise.