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What Does Force or Coercion Mean?

Blank Law, PC Team

What Does Force or Coercion Mean?

Michigan criminal sexual conduct charges often include the requirement of “force or coercion.”

What Does Force or Coercion Mean?

Force or coercion” can be defined in simple terms as exerting strength, power, and duress over another person. It can also mean overcoming resistance by actual or threatened pressure or violence.

Per MCL 750.520e, “force or coercion” includes:

  • Using physical force, pressure, or violence to overcome a victim
  • Coercing a victim to submission through threats of violence while the victim believes that the actor can execute those threats
  • Coercing a victim to submission through threats of future retaliation against them or any person close to them, and the victim believes that the person issuing the threats can execute those threats; to “retaliate” includes threats of physical punishment, kidnapping or extortion
  • A medical professional engages in a medical examination or treatment considered unethical
  • An actor achieves sexual contact through concealment or an element of surprise

Force or Coercion in Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Cases

There are four classes of criminal sexual conduct (CSC degrees) charges under Michigan law:

Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree

Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree

Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree

Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree

Under CSC 1st degree Michigan and CSC 3rd degree Michigan, force or coercion are considered “elements” that must be proven by the prosecution when used to accomplish what is sexual penetration.

If the accused used force or coercion to achieve sexual penetration and some other factor existed, for example physical injury or serious mental injury to the victim resulted, the charged offense will be what is criminal sexual conduct 1st degree. If the actor only achieves sexual penetration without injuring the victim, and the victim’s age is 13 years or older, the resulting charge can be first degree criminal sexual conduct or third degree criminal sexual conduct.

In CSC 2nd degree Michigan and CSC 4th degree Michigan, which do not involve sexual penetration, force or coercion are used as elements to achieve sexual contact for sexual gratification.

If the accused uses force or coercion to achieve sexual contact (see what is offensive touching) with the complainant and it results in physical injury, the charge will be second degree CSC. If the accused uses force or coercion to accomplish sexual contact with someone under the age of 16, the charge will also be criminal sexual conduct second degree. Whether or not you are charged with second degree criminal sexual conduct or fourth degree criminal sexual conduct, without injuries, will depend on the complainant’s age.

Coercion Does Not Always Have to Be Forceful

While the laws in Michigan use “force or coercion” interchangeably, the two terms are slightly different in their literal meaning.

Force is more physical, while coercion can take a more subtle approach. An excellent example of coercion is when one party pressures or manipulates the other into sexual contact or sexual penetration when they have expressly stated that they do not want to have sex.

It can be confusing at times as to whether or not the sexual activity engaged in is consensual or not consensual due to the fact that it does NOT have to be forceful. The acussed may feel like it is not an assault because they believed the victim consented to the sexual activity; however, the victim claims they only involved themselves in the sexual activity due to pressure or duress by the accused. This will cause the accused to be charged with a criminal sexual conduct charge.

Examples of Subtle Forms of Coercion


Another example of a situation where a person is likely to face a subtle form of coercion is when alcohol is involved. While a person can legally consent to sexual activity after having drinks, any consent made after a person’s ability to make informed decisions has been impaired by drugs or alcohol cannot be legally binding.

If a person requests sex and the other says no, but the former keeps offering drinks hoping to get consent, such actions can be deemed coercive and cause that person to be charged with a criminal sexual conduct charge.

In a Romantic Relationship

Being in a relationship does not mean there is automatic consent. However, being in one creates opportunities for coercion with sex. If a person employs guilt-tripping or other persuasive actions to wear you down, such actions can count as coercion and can result in psychological harm to the victim. If that happens, you could find yourself charged with a sex crime.

Threats to End the Relationship

When used in relation to criminal sexual conduct, coercion infers to the use of physical force, violence, or threats of violence. However, there are times when the threats can take a more subtle approach, like threats to the relationship.

This usually happens when the two individuals are involved in a relationship that both deem important. The party that seeks to engage in sex can be said to use coercion if they use threats of ending a relationship as a way to compel the other partner into consenting to sex.

Emotional or Psychological Manipulation

Emotional manipulation involves using emotionally manipulative tactics to bring the other person to consent to sex against their will. Emotional manipulation is common with persons that are in a relationship.

Manipulative coercion includes refusing to talk with their partner, crying, sighing heavily, etc. Though not violent in nature, such actions can still be considered coercion.

Badgering/Continually Demanding Sex

Badgering involves a continued and sustained request for sex. Badgering can happen to any person, whether they are in a relationship or not.

Unfortunately, it is possible to have a person giving in to badgering with the hope that giving in to the other person’s demands will stop the pestering request for sex. Such consent can be said to have been given through coercion.

Being Extra Generous with Compliments

This form of coercion is closely related to emotional manipulation. It involves a person being overgenerous with compliments or gifts. For example, a person could be offering lunch money with the aim to use their generosity as a reason they should have sex with the other person.

Person of Authority

Another situation would be when someone who is in a position of authority offers something, such as a promotion, to another person, which they then use as the reason for their entitlement to sex.

The Dangers of Subtle Coercion

Any consent to a sexual activity given under the circumstances listed above cannot be legally binding. Therefore, it is important to determine if there was an element of consent for the sexual act committed.

Consent to sex has become a very slippery slope. It has gotten so out of hand that in order to make sure you protect yourself and your future, you should videotape your partner confirming that they have consented to the sexual activity that is going to take place.

When You May Need a Lawyer

Many situations would make force or coercion an element in the commission of an offense. However, in most cases it is used in reference to sex crimes. If you are facing any degree of criminal sexual conduct, a skilled criminal sexual conduct attorney will help you fight your charges and better your chances of a favorable outcome.

Sex crimes can be pretty emotive and have the jury carried away. Your biggest challenge will be introducing reasonable doubt into the jury’s minds, something only a skilled lawyer who only focuses on sex crimes can do.

Let Attorney Nicole Blank Becker of Blank Law, PC Help You with Your Case

If you are charged with a force or coercion-related sex offense in Michigan, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney with years of experience with handling sex related crimes from both sides, as a prosecutor and a defense arrorney, should be your top priority. If the charges you face are sexual, then Attorney Nicole Blank Becker of Blank Law, PC is the lawyer to contact now.

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Nicole has practiced law in Michigan for over 20 years and has focused solely on sex crimes for the past decade. Nicole was a defense attorney prior to becoming a prosecutor. This means she has deep insight into the details of Michigan sex laws.

When Nicole was a prosecutor, she was Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit and Child Abuse Unit in Macomb County, Michigan. Nicole’s years of experience on both sides of the courtroom, her ability to anticipate the other side’s next move, and having done thousands of jury trials allows her to look at every case from all angles to ensure she secures the most favorable outcomes for her clients.

Nicole understands that not all accusations are based on truth and that one wrong step does not define a person, so she never judges her clients based on their charges. Instead, she works on building the most trusting attorney-client relationship, which is critical in a world where it is hard to trust people, especially lawyers.

To have Nicole help you with your case, call (248) 515-6583 or reach us online to have your first free consultation with Michigan’s best sex crimes lawyer, Attorney Nicole Blank Becker.

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