A 19 year-old male from out of state recently appeared before a Michigan court for having consensual sex with a 14 year-old minor female from Michigan. The young man found the girl on the phone app "Hot or Not" and was under the assumption she was 17 years old. The two met once in Michigan and engaged in consensual sex. The girl's parents became concerned because she has epilepsy and called the police when she did not return home at her expected time. The police found her with the 19 year-old. Eventually, the teen was charged in Michigan for having sex with a minor under MCL 750.520d, the third-degree criminal sexual conduct statute. The family of the girl did not want charges brought against the young man because the acts were consensual and their daughter was just as much at fault as he was because she lied about her age. However, the judge in the case sentenced the teen to 90 days in jail and 5 years probation, which consists of not being able to access the Internet or have a smart phone. He will also have to register as a sex offender for 25 years, even though he is only a teenager and not a violent offender.
As ridiculous as it may sound, consensual sex between two teenagers in Michigan is considered a crime. This is commonly known as statutory rape. In Michigan, the age of consent is 16. If a teenager who is older than 16 has sex with a minor that is between the ages of 13 and 16, he or she could face charges for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, even if it is consensual sex, and be placed on the sex offender registry unless the Romeo and Juliet exception applies. Statutory rape cases must be taken very seriously because the consequences are steep.
In this case, the 14-year-old girl lied about her age on the cell phone application and said she was 17. In Michigan, a girl lying about her age is not considered a defense to a crime. However, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear a mini oral arguments on the application for a case, People v. Kilgo, that will determine whether mistake of age could be used as component of a defense to a crime and whether the Court's decision in People v. Cash, 419 Mich 230 (1984) is still viable under the law. In Cash, the Michigan Supreme Court determined that the reasonable mistake of someone's age is not a suitable defense in a charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Our office hopes there is a change to the current holding in Cash because the growth of the Internet and social media makes it easier for minors to lie about their age online. This is an issue we run into all the time.
Some sex offenders can be excused from registering as a sex offender for having consensual sex under what is know as the "Romeo and Juliet" provision under the Michigan sex offender laws. Under this provision, a registered offender who engaged in a consensual sexual activity with a victim that was at least 13 years old, but less than 16 years old and was not more than 4 years older than the victim at the time the sexual activity took place is allowed to petition the court for immediate removal from the sex offender registry. Unfortunately not every case can meet these requirements, like the case above from the facts known to our office.
The Law Offices of Shannon M. Smith understand the difficulties that come with consensual sex cases and criminal sexual conduct cases in general. Our office is highly experienced in defending those accused of sex crimes, such as consensual sex with a minor, and helping to assist with the difficulties that come with registering as a sex offender under Michigan's Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA). If you or a loved one is facing charges of criminal sexual conduct, contact our office to set up a consultation.