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What if I've Been Accused of CSC Before?

Facing Charges with Prior Sexual Assault Accusations

In our culture, there's no denying that Sexual Assault and Sex Crimes are a hot topic, and with the recent conviction of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, the momentum doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon, and every day, it seems like more and more people are talking about the issue and taking sides. In this article, our Detroit sex crimes lawyer answers this question of ever-increasing relevance in our modern times: What happens if I'm charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct in Detroit and was accused of sexual assault in the past?

Before going any further, we need to be clear about something: defending those charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct and other sex crimes does not mean we defend or condone the acts of rapists or child molesters. The truth is that innocent people are being charged and convicted of Criminal Sexual Conduct at an alarming rate.

Don't think it happens? Just ask yourself this question: How many times in the past year have you heard a story about someone being released from Prison after serving decades, finally having been exonerated for a wrongful Sex Crime conviction, usually by DNA, but sometimes even because the accuser admits they lied?

While we take no position on the "Me Too Movement"—just like we share in the common belief that sexual assault is a horrible act—we believe that even the most zealous Me Too advocates would agree that being sent to prison for a crime you didn't commit is a travesty, and that's what we're here for: to prevent that from ever happening in the first place.

If we all agree that the best function of our judicial system is simply to discover the truth, then it's much easier to leave the debating to the talking heads. If we as a society honestly want the truth in each individual case, there's not much to debate other than how to best reach the truth.

There are many circumstances that give rise to false allegations of sexual assault, and a Criminal Sexual Conduct lawyer can shed light on these details. One of the more common situations involves those who were accused in the past. Even though the situation may have been resolved, would-be accusers and other opportunistic cohorts waiting in the wings may see this as a target on that accused's person's back. A typical scenario may look something like this:

Jane and John, both in their 20's, are going through a nasty and emotional break-up. Jane falsely accuses John of taking advantage of her sexually. Jane's parents hear about it, and insist that Jane go to Police. John happens to be one of the lucky few who, for one reason or another, never gets charged. Years later, John meets Anne. After a few glasses of wine one night, John decides to tell Anne about Jane's allegation. They laugh over it, and life goes on.

John and Anne marry, but after 10 years together, things start to fall apart. John catches Anne cheating and files for divorce. While the divorce is pending, Anne's daughter—aware of Jane's false allegation—accuses John of Sexual Assault, and he is charged with First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. In Court, the Prosecution files something called a "Notice of Intent" to have Jane come and testify to the "other act" of Criminal Sexual Conduct, even though John was never charged.

How a Criminal Sexual Conduct Lawyer Can Help

Michigan’s Criminal Sexual Conduct laws have multiple sections that address scenarios where charges of Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) are raised by an accuser and the prosecution wishes to use this "evidence" of an "other act" to try to get a conviction, regardless of whether the alleged "other act" was investigated or not, and whether it resulted in criminal charges or not.

The particular laws of interest are:

  • MCL 768.27a, entitled "Evidence that defendant committed another listed offense against minor; admissibility; disclosure of evidence to defendant; definitions"
    • This statute deals with prosecutions for Criminal Sexual Conduct against a minor, usually involving charges of First Degree CSC, MCL 750.520b or Second Degree CSC, MCL 750.520c. Under certain circumstances, it allows the prosecution to introduce evidence of other claims of Criminal Sexual Conduct and other sex crimes against a minor for which the accused is not actually charged. If the evidence of these other allegations of CSC are allowed, the prosecutor may be allowed to argue that the jury should consider it as what is called "character" or "propensity"—they argue that, "he (allegedly) did it before, so you should believe he would do it again." Those types of arguments and the evidence that the prosecution would offer to support them are generally NOT allowed in criminal prosecutions. Click here for more detail on "other acts" evidence under MCL 768.27a.
  • MCL 768.27b, entitled "Domestic violence or sexual assault offense; commission of other domestic violence acts; admissibility; disclosure; definitions; applicability of section"
    • Historically, this statute was only used in cases involving domestic violence allegations. However, it was recently amended to apply the same logic to Criminal Sexual Conduct and sexual assault cases. It is applicable to all cases where the accused is charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct, not just those involving a "minor." Again, if evidence is admitted under this law, the prosecutor may be allowed to make character/propensity arguments based on it. Notice, however, that alleged "other acts" of sexual assault that allegedly occurred more than 10 years before the charged allegation are presumed not to be admissible, unless:
      • The act was a sexual assault that was reported to law enforcement within 5 years of the date of the sexual assault
      • The act was a sexual assault and a sexual assault evidence kit was collected
      • The act was a sexual assault and the testing of evidence connected to the assault resulted in a DNA identification profile that is associated with the defendant
      • Admitting the evidence is in the interest of justice

Michigan Rule of Evidence ("MRE") 404(b), entitled "Other crimes, wrongs or acts"

    • This Rule of Evidence, MRE 404(b) generally makes character/propensity evidence inadmissible. It states that evidence of other "crimes, wrongs, or acts" is "not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, scheme, plan, or system in doing an act, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident when the same is material, whether such other crimes, wrongs, or acts are contemporaneous with, or prior or subsequent to the conduct at issue in the case." Think of MRE 404(b) as sort of a "catch-all" category used when the prosecution is unsuccessful at getting evidence of the alleged "other acts" through either of the above laws.

Here's the bottom-line in simple terms: if you are charged with First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in Detroit and the prosecution believes they have someone who will testify against you—whether or not you were ever investigated, charged, or convicted of the alleged other act, and whether or not the alleged act supposedly happened before or after the alleged act for which you are currently charged—they have the right to file a Notice of Intent asking the court to allow that testimony, even if that testimony or other evidence is from the same accuser who is the actual complainant as to the allegations that you are actually charged with.

However, just because they ask to use the other allegation does not mean they'll ultimately be allowed to. Your Criminal Sexual Conduct defense attorney should thoroughly discuss the matter with you, investigate it, and file an Objection to prompt the Judge to address the matter at a hearing or a series of hearings.

There are many different Objections which can be raised, including that the "probative value" of the offered evidence is "substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence" under MRE 403.

If you or someone you know is accused of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan, contact Metro Criminal Sexual Conduct Lawyer Brian J. Prain of Prain Law, PLLC immediately. He has a stunning track record decorated with verdict after verdict of NOT GUILTY of Criminal Sexual Conduct. Before taking advice from any criminal defense attorney, ask them about their record of actual trial verdicts in real Detroit CSC cases.

Criminal Sexual Conduct Attorney Brian J. Prain of Prain Law, PLLC specifically concentrates his practice on defending those charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) in the Metro Detroit area and all across Michigan.

Brian has been named one of the 19 best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Detroit by Expertise.com, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Michigan by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys, named in D Business Top Lawyers, 2019 and 2020, featured in Super Lawyers, recognized as one of the Top 100 Michigan Criminal Trial Attorneys by the National Trial Lawyers, and much more.

Contact us at (248) 731-4543 or via email using our online contact form.

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Prain Law, PLLC is focused only on the types charges featured on our website. This helps us deliver the decisive, effective advocacy for which our clients know us. We only serve individuals currently under investigation or who have a current case pending in court. Our firm does not represent injury victims, defendants who have already taken a plea or have been sentenced, or those seeking to expunge a criminal record. We do not respond to anyone who is not involved in a pending investigation or who has a court case for a type of charge we do not handle, but we wish you the very best of luck.