A 35-year-old Kent County man who pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct after sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl who was believed to be his half-sister will now have the charge reduced. DNA testing revealed that the two were not blood related, according to the state Supreme Court.
The suspect, who was not named in news reports, and the victim believed they shared the same biological father. The man was permitted to challenge his conviction as part of a plea agreement, based on the relationship between the victim and himself. In a ruling issued on December 19, the state Supreme Court said, “We conclude that the prosecution cannot establish a blood relationship between the defendant and victim when the undisputed evidence indicates that the defendant is not biologically related to the victim.”
Michigan’s paternity law holds that a child born into a marriage is a product of that marriage. Also known as the Bastardy Statute, the law works to protect families and the sanctity of marriage. The Supreme Court said that the civil presumption was wrongly applied in this case in order to prove that the defendant and victim were legally related. The defendant will now be re-sentenced on a charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a potential 15 year prison sentence versus the 11 to 35 years he was facing previously after being convicted on the first-degree CSC charge.
The victim and defendant believed they were half siblings after the defendant was born in 1979 to parents who divorced; the father then had another child, the victim, in 1992 with another woman. In 2007 it was alleged that the defendant sexually assaulted the victim, who was 14 at the time. DNA testing performed at a later date indicated that the father of the defendant was not his biological father, meaning the suspect and victim are not blood related.
The prosecution raised valid policy concerns saying that the interpretation made by the state Supreme Court may affect individuals in adoptive situations, due to blood relationships being established only through biological relationships. Essentially, the prosecution argued that because of this interpretation, an adopted child may be sexually assaulted by a member of his or her adoptive family, an offense which may not be punishable under the law.
If you have been arrested for criminal sexual conduct or have already been charged, it is urgent that you consult with a seasoned Michigan sex crime lawyer immediately. Without legal guidance, you face certain punishment which may include prison time, fines and the requirement to register as a sex offender.