Currently in the state of Michigan there are four degrees of CSC, or criminal sexual conduct, which a person who allegedly commits a sex-related crime may be charged with depending on various factors. These include first-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, with first-degree the most serious of all and leaving the defendant potentially facing life in prison if convicted.
Some Michigan lawmakers, including Representative Holly Hughes, are looking to change state law in an effort to not only protect children and families from sex offenses, but also to secure justice for victims who were allegedly sexually abused in the past, some decades ago. If a new bill sponsored by Hughes passes, it will result in additional prosecution of individuals who are allegedly sexual predators.
In 2001 the statute of limitations was eliminated by the legislature, however Hughes wants to make the law retroactive which would mean those who claim to have been sexually abused prior to that time could bring criminal charges against an alleged offender, even if the alleged crime took place decades ago. In essence, someone who claims to have been raped in 1970 could work with prosecutors to bring criminal charges nearly 50 years after the fact. If convicted, the offender could face a life prison term.
If House Bill 4231 becomes law, it could be a tragedy for those who may be prosecuted for a crime that may or may not have occurred 20, 30, or even 50 years ago. Because sex crimes are so emotionally charged, many people have a pre-determined notion of a person’s innocence or guilt even before the accused has an opportunity to defend themselves or present their case to the jury.
Unfortunately, with many sex-related offenses it seems to be a case of “guilty until proven innocent” instead of the other way around. Being able to prosecute a person for a crime that may have happened decades ago is particularly troubling, given that recounting the facts or circumstances so many years later with any accuracy is difficult, and how we recollect or remember something that occurred decades ago may be drastically different from what actually happened.
Of course children should be protected from sexual predators, but it’s also important to consider no person should face criminal punishment or possibly years (or life) behind bars for a crime they did not commit. In so many sex crime allegations, the accused is innocent. Sadly, it isn’t very difficult for someone to make false allegations against someone regarding these types of crimes.
Having represented more than 700 Michigan residents accused of sex crimes over the last 21 years, I have come across countless individuals who are innocent of the crimes they have been accused of. Anyone who is accused of sexual assault or any sex-related offense must secure the legal support and guidance of a highly experienced and skilled Michigan sex crimes defense attorney.