It is Vexing to be Hexed by Allegations of Sexual Misconduct: Sex Crimes and Use of Legal Counsel

In Michigan, there are four degrees of criminal sexual misconduct: the first degree is the most serious and covers a range of illegal activities, which is punishable by up to life in prison. The second and third degrees cover lesser activities which are punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment. Finally, the fourth degree covers acts punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $500.00. However, criminal sexual misconduct is not the only crime of its nature involved with the legal system. Acts such as juvenile and adult sex offenses, sexting (using a cell phone to send or receive sexual text messages), use of a computer to engage in illegal sexual activity, and possession, distribution, or manufacturing child pornography all have consequences involving the legal system. The possible punishments include incarceration, being placed on the sex offender list, and damage to an individual's reputation - any of which could significantly alter employment, career, or educational opportunities. Because of the far-reaching legal and social consequences mentioned above, individuals should seek the aid of an attorney immediately after the time they are contacted by the police, rather than waiting until they are officially charged. Of course, persons should not meet with the police or answer any questions the police may ask by phone, without first consulting with an attorney.

When a person thinks of hiring an attorney, it is usually after charges have been filed. However, there are multiple phases involved with criminal charges, and it is beneficial to speak to an attorney before being charged. The first phase is called the investigation phase. The investigation phase is the period of time after an alleged act has occurred, but before charges are filed against an individual. Although it may not seem necessary to hire an attorney before this occurs, there are many good reasons why employing an attorney at this stage is crucial to the outcome of the case. Utilizing an attorney during the investigation phase of alleged sex crimes to mitigate charges can have a lasting effect which may not be readily apparent at the outset of the case.

Some of the steps an attorney might take during the investigation phase in order to aid a client with a case involving criminal sexual misconduct of any nature:

  • Conducting character investigations of the client and the victim
  • Completing an in-office polygraph (lie-detector) to assist counsel with the client's defense
  • Scheduling the client for a psychological evaluation to demonstrate that the client does not possess characteristics of a sexual deviant or of a violent/anti-social nature
  • Protecting the client from police interviews
  • Working to avoid potentially inflammatory pre-charge publicity
  • Preventing damage to the client's reputation by discreetly seeking a resolution without court involvement
  • Obtaining resolutions that do not result in incarceration or being placed on the sex offender list
  • Utilizing a forensic computer/cell phone examiner to analyze the client's property

The character investigation of both the client and the victim is used to understand the nature of the relationship between the client and the victim, if any; to determine whether the victim has a history of mental instability, including a history of prior false accusations of rape or other criminal behaviors, or has a general reputation as an untruthful person and to determine if the victim has any motive to fabricate the allegations. Information gathered from polygraphs generally aids counsel in determining whether or not the client is truthful about the events in question, and may help persuade prosecutors to not issue a charge, or to issue a lesser charge. An attorney may use a forensic computer or cell phone investigator to assist in assessing the likelihood that incriminating sexually explicit materials were placed on the client's computer or phone by the client or others.

According to Michigan law, convicted adults and adjudicated juvenile delinquents are required to register with the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry if they have worked or gone to school in the state for more than 14 consecutive days or 30 days in a calendar year. Individuals who are convicted or adjudicated in other states under similar statutes are also required to register in Michigan. A new law, taking effect July 1st, 2011, will change the nature of juvenile crimes and the sex offender list. Juvenile offenses, while not usually recorded as adult convictions, can result in being placed on the sex offender list for 25 years or possibly for life. The new law, informally dubbed as the "Romeo and Juliet" law, will exclude individuals from the registry however, if they are found guilty of engaging in a "consensual" sexual relationship with a 13-, 14-, or 15- year old so long as they are not more than four years older than the minor victim. Those already on the list due to this type of relationship can petition courts to expunge their names from the list.

To view the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry (PSOR) please visit: http://www.mipsor.state.mi.us/