Garton & Vogt
Michigan bill would change statute of limitations for criminal sexual conduct
If House Bill 4231 becomes law, a person can be charged with criminal sexual conduct in the first degree no matter how long ago the alleged incident took place.
There are perhaps no criminal allegations which bring more of an emotional response than sex crimes. Against such charges, defendants may be found guilty in the eyes of the public long before they get a chance to state their case before a jury.
When those charges involve allegations of sexual abuse against a minor, personal injury to the victim, it can be difficult for ordinary people to objectively look at facts, rather than have a gut reaction assuming guilt.
In Michigan, there is no statute of limitations for bringing a charge of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. This is unlike many other crimes, in which prosecutors must decide to bring a case against someone within a reasonable amount of time or forever lose the right to do so. Even criminal sexual conduct in the second degree has a statute of limitation of 10 years.
However, when the law abolishing the statute of limitations for criminal sexual conduct against a child passed in Michigan in 2001, it was not made retroactive. In other words, allegations or charges of criminal sexual conduct that occurred before 2001 are still subject to the statute of limitations.
Now, a bill proposed in the house would do away with the statute of limitations even for allegations of abuse that occurred before 2001. The bill is currently in the Committee on Criminal Justice.
Guilty until proven innocent?
The intent of the bill is clear; sex crimes are prosecuted vigorously, and often victims are not willing or able to immediately come forward. However, bringing a criminal charge against a person for a crime that allegedly occurred decades ago is troubling. With recollections of sexual abuse, it can be difficult to accurately recount facts. Memory can be unreliable, especially for traumatic events.
For people who find themselves in the criminal justice system facing charges of sexual abuse of a minor, the consequences could not be more severe. First degree criminal sexual conduct can bring a life sentence. Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree has a 15 year maximum sentence; but the consequences of conviction also last a lifetime.
For criminal defendants accused of sexual assault or sexual abuse of a minor or other criminal sexual conduct, the stakes could not be higher. Even if a defendant avoids life in prison, consequences of a conviction last a lifetime.
That is why it is so important to get immediate representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney if you've been charged with criminal sexual conduct. Your very life is at stake, as is the wellbeing of loved ones. Contact our office to discuss your legal options and protect your constitutional rights.