Sexual Misconduct Charges: All You Need to Know
It seems as if everywhere you look today, there’s another news report of someone accused of sexual misconduct – famous actors and musicians, politicians and law enforcement, and even normal everyday people just like you.
The term “sexual misconduct” covers a wide range of behaviors, and while it does not always result in sex crime charges, it always has the potential to ruin your life by ways of:
- Embarrassment and scandal for you and your family
- A tarnished reputation
- Termination of employment
- Loss of future opportunities
- Child Protective Services investigations
- Termination of parental rights
- Revocation of professional licenses or security clearance
- Civil lawsuits
- Criminal charges
- Hefty fines
- Sexual offender registration
So what are sexual conduct charges, exactly?
More importantly, how serious are they?
Most importantly, what should you do if you are accused of sexual misconduct?
In the state of Michigan, sexual misconduct is a general term used to describe any unlawful behavior of a sexual nature. These can range from violations of sexual harassment laws to other sex crimes that are even more serious.
The repercussions of sexual misconduct charges can also vary widely, depending on the specific prohibited sexual activity – from consequences at work to civil penalties to a misdemeanor charge to a Class C felony.
Allegations of illegal sexual conduct can have a major negative impact on your life and on your future. This means that the best thing you can do to protect yourself, your family, and perhaps even your freedom is to immediately hire a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in sexual misconduct cases.
To help you understand just what is at stake, let’s take a closer look at the different types of sexual misconduct in Michigan.
Sexual Harassment and Stalking
Michigan Penal Code Section 750.411h
These types of sexual misconduct cases occur whenever someone engages in a pattern of unconsented behaviors that causes another person to suffer emotional distress.
Harassment occurs whenever you continue to contact or attempt to contact someone who has clearly expressed that it is unwelcome and that they want you to stop. If those interactions are for romantic purposes or sexual gratification, then it is referred to as sexual harassment.
Legally, harassment is defined as a pattern of behavior, not a single incident. In other words, asking someone out is not a crime, but continuing to do so after being told no, and after the other person clearly tells you to stop, may cross the line that defines sexual harassment.
It doesn’t take much – the law defines a “pattern” of conduct as just two or more separate acts.
The second legal standard for harassment has two qualifications.
First, the pattern of conduct must be such that a reasonable person would find it emotionally distressing. Second, the alleged victim must suffer actual emotional distress.
Simple harassment is not considered a criminal act in Michigan. However, the alleged victim can file a civil lawsuit alleging emotional pain and suffering, along with other damages.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
If, however, the alleged sexual harassment occurred at work or involved a coworker, you may be in violation of federal law, which prohibits:
- Unwanted sexual advances
- “Quid pro quo” – Demanding sexual favors for work-related benefits, such as employment status, promotions, raises, time off, etc.
- Interfering with a person’s ability to do their job
- Creating a sexually hostile work environment
- Retaliating against someone for reporting sexual harassment
Although engaging in workplace sexual misconduct rarely results in direct legal penalties for the harasser, the company may face steep fines and civil liability if it failed to prevent the harassment. This is why most companies have a zero-tolerance policy on any type of sexual harassment, with severe consequences for violations, up to and including immediate termination and loss of benefits.
Stalking, on the other hand, is a criminal act in Michigan. In some ways, it can be thought of as harassment to an even greater degree. The legal definition of stalking is a continued pattern of conduct that would reasonably make the alleged victim feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.”
Examples of stalking behaviors include:
- Following the alleged victim or tracking their movements
- Showing up or confronting them at their home, place of employment, or any other public or private place
- Contacting them by phone, text, mail, email, or social media
- Trespassing on their property
- Delivering items to their property
Per the Michigan stalking laws, it is typically a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both. However, if the alleged victim is a minor under the age of 18 and the accused stalker is five or more years older, then it becomes a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
Although stalking is not technically included among other sex crimes in Michigan, a 1999 study found that a large percentage of stalkers do so because they are seeking intimacy. This would include stalking someone for the purposes of gratifying sexual desire.
Criminal Sexual Misconduct
Beyond civil or misdemeanor sexual misconduct, there are also many other sex crimes that are far more serious. Most common sexual assault offenses in Michigan, such as rape, sexual battery, statutory rape, unlawful sodomy, and the like, fall under the umbrella of criminal sexual conduct:
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree – Non-consensual sexual intercourse or other penetrative sex acts involving force or coercion, an incapacitated person, or a minor child
The CSC 1st degree Michigan penalty is a felony with a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree – Non-consensual sexual touching under the same parameters as a CSC 1st degree
The CSC 2nd degree Michigan penalty is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree – Sexual intercourse or other penetrative sex acts with someone who cannot legally grant consent.
The CSC 3rd degree Michigan penalty is a felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
- Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree – Typically, this is the charge when inappropriate touching or criminal sexual contact occurs between a minor between the ages of 13 and 15 and an adult five or more years older. The District Attorney can also file a fourth degree charge if they have evidence that unlawful touching took place, but they do not reasonably expect to be able to secure a CSC 2nd degree
The CSC 4th degree Michigan penalty is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a $500 fine.
Sexual Misconduct Involving Indecency
Misconduct can take other forms besides sexual assault charges. Any behavior that crosses the line of accepted decency can also qualify as sexual misconduct.
Michigan Penal Code Section 750.335a
Under Michigan law, there are three degrees of indecent exposure that are considered sexual misconduct crimes.
The first degree applies to anyone who knowingly and purposely exposes their private/modesty areas or that of another person.
The second degree is when they also fondle their genitals, pubic area, breasts, or buttocks.
The third and most serious degree of indecent exposure is when the exposure is performed by anyone classified as a “sexual delinquent“, aka a sex offender.
Indecent exposure is a misdemeanor sex crime in Michigan.
- 1st Degree: Up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000
- 2nd Degree: Up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,000
- 3rd Degree: Indecent exposure by a sexually delinquent person
Even though it is still technically a misdemeanor, sexually delinquent persons – habitual sex offenders – convicted of indecent exposure can be legally held for an indefinite period, from one day to life.
Gross Indecency Between Persons
Gross indecency sexual misconduct typically involves engaging in public sex.
In Michigan, gross indecency between persons is a felony sex crime with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
As with indecent exposure, a habitual sexual offender convicted of this crime can be imprisoned indefinitely, from one day to life.
Defending Against Sexual Misconduct Charges
As you can see, there is no such thing as a minor sexual misconduct charge. At worst, they can send you to prison for the rest of your life, and, at best, they can cost you your job and your prospects for the future.
This is why you need the right representation, because not all sexual assault defense lawyers have the necessary specialized skill to help you beat a sexual misconduct allegation.
- Examine the charges – Does the alleged sexual misconduct even meet the legal standard of an offense?
- Protect your rights – Has law enforcement or the prosecution violated your constitutional or due process rights?
- Challenge EVERYTHING – Are the statements, witnesses, and evidence telling the whole story?
Even if some of the allegations against you are technically true, the best Michigan criminal defense lawyers can still fight for you, along with making sure that you receive a fair trial and that your best interests are represented.
This includes knowing when and how to negotiate the right plea bargain so you can have a more favorable – and more predictable – outcome than a risky, expensive, and time-consuming trial.
This could mean reduced or dropped charges, smaller fines, less jail time, and alternatives to incarceration, such as probation, mental health evaluation and treatment, or drug rehab.
In other words, a sexual misconduct charge does not have to ruin the rest of your life.
Blank Law, PC: Specializing in Sex Crimes in Michigan
If you have been charged with a sexual misconduct offense and you want the kind of attorney-client relationship that gives you your best chance at beating the charges, you want Blank Law, PC
Founding sex crimes defense attorney Nicole Blank Becker has more than 20 years of experience in the Michigan legal system, serving as both an Assistant Prosecutor and as a private defense attorney. Before re-entering private practice, Nicole served as the Chief of Macomb County‘s Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Crimes Units.
Defense Attorney Christopher Coyle also brings experience and expertise to the table, having served over 30 years as a Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor. Before joining Blank Law, PC, Christopher was the Deputy Chief of the Special Victims Unit.
Together, that’s more than a half-century of specialized expert sex crimes defense that could and should be fighting for you right now. If you need help, a criminal attorney free consultation is just a phone call or a click away.
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