Criminal Defense Law Center
West Michigan

Difference Between 1st 2nd 3rd Degree Sexual Assault

Perhaps no charge, except murder, creates more fear in a defendant than a criminal sexual conduct (CSC) charge. To be convicted of one of these charges is to labeled by many people in society as a sexual predator or a child molester. There are four categories of sexual assault charges in Michigan. A person convicted of CSC charges in the first, second and third degree will almost certainly be sentenced to prison time. The vast majority of people convicted of CSC in the fourth degree usually spend some time in jail.  People convicted for these crimes also have to register as a sex offender in Michigan. This article will deal with the differences between the four categories. This blog post will clearly explain the differences between differences between 1st 2nd 3rd Degree Sexual Assault. 

In order to figure out what type of a criminal sexual assault charges a person might be facing, a determination must be determined to see if there was penetration. Penetration does not mean only sexual intercourse, it also includes oral sex, an intrustion of any part of the human body into anal or genital openings. 

If an allegation of sexual assault includes any type of penetration, it will fall into 1st degree or 3rd degree CSC. 

1st Degree Offenses

A person convicted for 1st degree CSC can be sentenced up to life in prison and face a minimal sentence of at least 25 years. A person will also have to deal with mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring.

Here is the list of facts needed for a prosecutor to charge a defendant with criminal sexual conduct in the 1st degree:
The victim is under the age of 13 years old:

  1. If the victim is at least 13 years old but no older than 15 years old, and is either related to the defendant, the victim lives in the household of the defendant, or if the defendant has a position of authority to the victim;
  2. When the defendant is a teacher, or an administrator of the school or a substitute teacher and the victim is younger than the age of 16;
  3. The defendant works for or is a contract employee of the school where the victim attends;
  4. When coercion or force was used to engage in sexual penetration or the victim was incapacitated;
  5. A weapon was used to complete the sexual assault;
  6. A personal injury happened from the force/coercion;
  7. An incapacitated victim suffered a personal injury;
  8. The defendant was engaging in another felony;
  9. The defendant was receiving medical treatment or an examination for medical purposes and was sexually assaulted.

2nd Degree Offenses

In cases where there is no penetration, but there has been sexual activity, the charges will fall into the categories of the 2nd degree CSC or 4th degree CSC. A conviction for CSC in the second degree will result in a person facing up to 15 years in prison, registration on the Michigan Sex Offender Registery and life time electronic monitoring if the victim was under 13 years old. Sexual contact includes the following areas, with no penetration,  inner thigh, breast, buttock or groin. 

If the following apply a defendant will face criminal sexual conduct in the second degree:

  1. The victim of sexual assault is younger than 13 year old;
  2. The victim is between 13 to 15 years old, but lives in the household of the defendant, related to the defendant or the defendant is in a position of authority over the victim.
  3. The person accused of sexual assault is a substitute teacher, teacher, a person who is an administrator of the a school in the same district as the victim.
  4. The defendant works for a school and is in the same district as the victim.
  5. Coercion or force was used during the assault or the victim was incapacitated;
  6. A weapon was used
  7. Coercion or force was used and the victim suffered a personal injury.
  8. The victim was incapacitated and suffered an injury;
  9. The accused was in the process of engaging in felonious activity
  10. The defendant was getting medical treatment or a medical examination and was sexually assaulted. 

3rd Degree Offenses

Any sexual assault that has penetration but does not have the facts needed to issue a CSC first degree charge will be charged as CSC in the third degree. The maximum punishment for a conviction of this crime is 15 years in prison and registration on the sex offender registry. 

A charge of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree applies when the following facts are established:  

  1. If the victim is between 13 and under 16 years old;
  2. If coercion or force used;
  3. If the defendant knew the victim was physically helpless or was incapacitated mentally at the time of the sexual penetration;
  4. The defendant is related to the victim
  5. If the victim is between 16 and 18 years old and is a student attending school where the defendant is either a substitute teacher, teacher, administrator, volunteer, service provider.
  6. If the victim is between the ages of 16 and 26 and receiving special education instruction and the defendant is a substitute teacher, administrator, teacher, administrator, volunteer or a contract service provider. 

4th Degree Offenses

When an allegation of sexual assault without penetration does not meet the requirements of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, a person will be charged with CSC in the 4th degree. This charge is punishable by up to two years in prison and a person convicted of this crime will have to register as a sex offender. 

Criminal sexual conduct charges will be issued when the following facts apply:  

  1. The victim is 13 to 16 years old while the accused is five years or more older
  2. Coercion or force is used
  3. The defendant knows the victim was physically helpless or mentally incapacitated;
  4. The victim is related to the defendant (to the third degree)
  5. The defendant is a person who is considered a mental health professional and the sexual conduct occurs within two years of treating the complaining witness. 
  6. The victim is between the ages of 16 and 18 and is a student in the school or district where the defendant teaches or is an administrator and employee. 
  7. The defendant is an administrator, employee, contract service provider, substitute teacher or teacher where the victim attends, the victim is between the ages of 16 to 26 and is getting special educational services.  

Defending Sex Crimes

Shawn can help you navigate the complex judicial system and secure you a great result by plea deal or by getting a not guilty conviction in your case. Our skilled lawyers at The Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan have even gotten cases tossed at the preliminary exam! Do not go with a court appointed attorney or a public defender if you are facing these extremely serious cases. 

If you are facing possible charges or are currently charged for criminal sexual conduct in Michigan, call Attorney Shawn James Haff at the Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan today. Shawn knows how to get his clients the best results possible! The call is free so do not wait!

Your reputation, freedom, and job are on the line. Being accused of a crime affects your whole family. You need help – now. Count on a lawyer skilled and experienced in and out of the courtroom. We have over 20 years of experience helping people just as yourself.


Final Thoughts

Any conviction of a criminal sexual conduct charge in Michigan will have devastating consequences to the convicted person. These life-changing events will include:

  • Massive court costs and fines
  • Being unable to work at certain places
  • Being denied opportunities for employment because of a criminal record or the loss of current employment. 
  • Being denied a license to practice a profession in areas such as nursing, medicine, law, teaching, pharmacy and if you currently have a license in those areas you will lose it because of a CSC conviction. 
  • If you have children your custody status can be negatively impacted
  • Deportation if you are not a U.S. citizen.

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