Michigan Sexual Assault Laws
Sexual assault occurs when someone initiates inappropriate sexual contact or behavior without the victim’s explicit consent. It’s important to understand that sexual assault is never a victim’s fault but rather the offender’s choice to inflict harm. Michigan sexual assault laws protect victims and survivors while empowering them to seek justice. Continue reading to help you learn more about your rights and the options available to you.
Sexual assault is any unwanted and nonconsensual sexual contact or behavior. Many actions encompass sexual assault, including attempted rape, fondling, forced intercourse, and related physical violence.
Michigan is the fourth leading state in rape cases across the country. Sexual assault at colleges has also been rampant in recent years, with some cases making it to national headlines, such as the Larry Nassar and Dr. Robert Anderson cases.
If you or your loved one has experienced any form of sexual assault, there are legal options available for you to seek justice. The current Michigan sexual assault laws offer more power to victims and survivors, with the most recent ones extending the time you have to file both criminal charges and civil lawsuits.
The Michigan State University Sexual Assault Case
In 2018, Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to decades in prison on sexual assault and child pornography charges. This was after more than 100 women testified that he had sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment.
This verdict led to signing the following bills into Michigan laws in June 2023:
- House Bill 4120: The state health department must create materials to train persons who are mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse and make them available online.
- House Bills 4121 and 4122: Any medical professional found guilty of sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment shall have their operating license permanently revoked.
- House Bills 4123 and 4124: No persons in positions of professional authority shall attempt to prevent victims or survivors from reporting criminal sexual conduct.
- House Bills 4125: Schools cannot take disciplinary actions, such as suspension, against a student for an action they took that arised from sexual assault.
What Are Michigan Sexual Assault Laws?
Michigan sexual assault laws use the term criminal sexual conduct (CSC) to collectively refer to sexual assault, rape, and sexual battery offenses. The laws have further categorized sexual abuse crimes into four degrees with varying seriousness of the offense and penalties:
- First-degree criminal sexual conduct: This offense defines any sexual activity involving penetration and a forceful act such as coercion, occurrence of a personal injury, victims under 13 years old, or sexual acts involving multiple actors. First-degree CSC is a felony and the punishment is life imprisonment and mandatory registration on the sex offender list.
- Second-degree criminal sexual conduct: This offense involves sexual contact with a victim’s groin, genital area, breasts, buttocks, or inner thighs without penetration, in addition to the conditions in the first degree. This is also a felony, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison and mandatory registration on the sex offenders list.
- Third-degree criminal sexual conduct: This degree involves forced sexual penetration and the use of force or coercion, victim incapacitation due to drugs or mental challenges, or victims who are 13 to 15 years old. The penalties for this felony are mandatory sexual offender registration and up to 15 years in prison.
- Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct: This involves sexual contact and victim incapacitation, an inmate assaulted by a Department of Corrections worker, or the use of force. Fourth-degree CSC is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a $500 fine or up to two years in prison.
In addition to these criminal penalties, victims and survivors of sexual assault in Michigan can sue their perpetrators for the harm resulting from the assault. Common damages you can recover through a sexual abuse lawsuit include medical treatment costs, psychological trauma, therapy and counseling costs, and lost wages, among others.
What Are Senate Bills 871 and 872 in Michigan?
Michigan sexual assault laws have evolved to give more rights and power to victims and survivors of sexual abuse. One example is providing more time to bring forward criminal or civil cases.
State Senators Margaret O’Brien and David Knezek introduced Senate Bills 871 and 872 (now Public Acts 180 and 181 of 2018) to expand the previous time limit on filing such cases.
Senate Bill 871 extended the time that a sexual assault victim has to file a criminal indictment for abuse that happened when they were younger than 18 years old. Previously, survivors had up to 10 years or until their 21st birthday, whichever was later, to press criminal charges for minor sexual assault. Victims and survivors of second and third-degree criminal sexual conduct now have up to 15 years or until their 28th birthday, whichever is later, to file charges.
Senate Bill 872 extends the period that victims and survivors of all ages have to file a civil lawsuit for damages resulting from sexual assault. The previous standard limit was three years after the act, with a few exceptions. Now you have until 10 years after the sexual abuse to file a compensation claim. Childhood sexual abuse victims have three years after injury discovery or until their 28th birthday to file a lawsuit in the new legislation.
What Are Michigan Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is the period in which victims can initiate legal action. Typically, cases brought forward after the given period has ended cannot be pursued and victims are forced to live without the justice they deserve.
The current statute of limitation for sexual assault cases is 15 years for criminal charges, and 10 years or until a victim’s 28 birthday for civil claims and lawsuits. However, Michigan lawmakers are still attempting to increase this period to hold more perpetrators accountable for the harm they caused. The proposed legislation will give survivors until their 52nd birthday to sue for sexual assault damages.
This will also come with a two-year period in which victims and survivors can sue for sexual abuse regardless of when it happened. Such a law will make it possible for all victims of Dr. Robert Anderson’s University of Michigan sexual assault case to find justice.
What Is the Age of Consent in Michigan?
The age of consent refers to the age at which a person is legally deemed competent enough to understand and agree to sexual acts. In Michigan, the age of consent is 16 years, but there are some exceptions. People who are above the age of 18 years cannot legally have consensual sex with persons under 18 years. Engaging in sexual acts with a minor is known as statutory rape and carries serious criminal penalties.
Individuals who are below the age of consent and not more than four years apart in age cannot be charged with statutory rape under Michigan’s Romeo and Juliet Laws. However, the victim must be at least 13 years old.
It’s also important to note that being of consenting age doesn’t automatically mean that the person has given consent to a sexual act. Consent can be withdrawn at any moment or if the victim is under the influence of mind-altering substances, coerced, or the perpetrator is in a position of authority over the victim.