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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
For more information email: tflynn@clarkstonlegal.com

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Date Rape and Statutory Rape Plea Bargains

Around the turn of the century, Michigan's so-called "rape" laws underwent a sea-change.  The Legislature re-wrote the law of sexual assaults into what is now classified as "criminal sexual conduct" [CSC].

There are numerous facets to this law, including the ages of the accused and the victim; their relationship; the use of force; and many other factors.  Once convicted under the CSC statutes, a defendant then faces the onerous registration requirements under the Sex Offender Registration Act.

Recently, our law firm was involved in two CSC cases that were headed for jury trials; one in Genesee County and one in Oakland County.  Each case resolved with plea agreements that preserved our clients' freedoms, but also included punishments that were justified under the circumstances.

The case in Genesee County involved date rape and resolved with hard-bargained plea and sentencing agreements that reduced the degree of the charges from CSC 3rd to CSC 4th.  The sentencing agreement featured a no-jail guarantee.  The only way these agreements were reached was because our lawyers were prepared to try the case; and the accused had a good defense.

Our Oakland County case was not as strong.  The accused wanted to utilize a defense that his young victim looked years older than she actually was.  When a victim is between the ages of 13 and 16, however, the Michigan Supreme Court long-ago held that an accused's reasonable mistake in the age of the victim is not a defense.

In fact, this defendant had no defense, even though no force was used and the evidence showed that the young victim pursued the relationship with the accused and "consented" to sexual contact.  If convicted, he also missed the 4-year "Romeo and Juliet" age-gap that would have afforded him the opportunity to convince the judge that he should not be placed on the sex-offender registry.

Between our client's willingness to push the matter to trial, the reasonable approach of the judge, the open-mindedness of the prosecutor to resolve the matter short of trial and, perhaps most importantly, the victim and her family's unwillingness to take the matter to trial, our client was offered a no-prison guarantee on his sentence, with any jail term suspended on condition he successfully completed probation.  A very good result under such tough circumstances.

Sexual assaults are horrible crimes that, when reported, often make the victim pay.  They frequently go to trial.  Most often, such cases become an exercise in damage control.

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