Can I be Convicted of CSC Based Only on Hearsay?

undefinedCriminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) cases are very unique among criminal charges.

Michigan CSC charges are broken down into four basic degrees:

  1. Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree, MCL 750.520b - up to LIFE in Prison
  2. Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd Degree, MCL 750.520c - up to 15 years in Prison
  3. Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree, MCL 750.520d - up to 15 years in Prison
  4. Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree, MCL 750.520e - up to 2 years in Prison

There are also a host of other CSC related crimes, including:

As a CSC Defense Attorney, one of the most common questions we receive is "Can I be convicted of CSC based only on hearsay?" When someone asks that question, what they are really asking is "Can I be convicted of CSC based only on an accusation alone with no other evidence?"

Legally speaking, "hearsay" essentially means one person testifying to what another person allegedly said ("I heard Johnny say XYZ"). For someone claiming to be the victim of Criminal Sexual Conduct to simply testify to what they claim actually happened to them is not considered hearsay at all. It is actually considered direct evidence.

So in this article, the question we are really answering his "Can I be convicted of CSC based only on an accusation alone with no other evidence?" Naturally, if you are accused of Criminal Sexual Conduct, it seems completely unjust, unfair, and unreasonable that someone can simply point their finger at you and say "he did it," and now you're facing a serious charge that could put you in Prison.

We agree 100%. But the short and simple answer is "yes," you absolutely can be convicted of a Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan based on an accuser's testimony alone, with zero additional evidence. That means the government does not need to come forward with any DNA evidence, other scientific evidence, a " Rape Kit ," medical testimony, video, eyewitnesses, text messages, or any other corroborating evidence - period.

RELATED: Click here for more on the basics of DNA evidence in CSC cases
RELATED: What is a "Rape Kit"?

As a matter of fact, this is actually true of just about any type of criminal charge. Think of a Domestic Violence charge where only the husband and wife are in the home. Think of an armed robbery case, where all the alleged victim is doing is essentially identifying the accused and claiming that they robbed them with no eyewitnesses present.

But this aspect of law is unique in Criminal Sexual Conduct cases because in these CSC cases, the Michigan Legislature actually passed a specific law to reiterate that fact, MCL 750.520h ("The testimony of a victim need not be corroborated in prosecutions under sections 520b to 520g."). That law became effective in 1975.

More recently, in a case called People v. Smith, 149 Mich App 189 (1986), the Michigan Court of Appeals reaffirmed that there need be no corroborating evidence to support the accusations in a Michigan CSC case. As a result of these legal authorities, every time a person goes on trial in the State of Michigan for a Criminal Sexual Conduct allegation, the Judge reads standard Michigan Criminal Jury Instruction 20. 25, entitled "Testimony of the Victim Need Not be Corroborated," to the jury:

"To prove this charge, it is not necessary that there be evidence other than the testimony of the Complainant, if that testimony proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

Now, reading this jury instruction, you may feel hopeless. You may ask yourself "If all it takes to convict me as a person to say that I did it, how will I ever have a chance?"

Well, that's where the skills and advocacy of an experienced Criminal Sexual Conduct Attorney come into play. Notice that the accuser's testimony without other evidence is only enough to get you convicted "… if that testimony proves guilt beyond reasonable doubt." That is actually an extremely high standard.

A skilled Criminal Defense Attorney with experience in Michigan CSC cases is an expert at raising that doubt. Not every case can be won, but if that doubt can be created, you are legally entitled to a verdict of not guilty.

RELATED: Should you take a Polygraph if you're accused of CSC?

There are many CSC cases that do involve DNA evidence, eyewitnesses, scientific evidence, confessions, incriminating statements– those things we call "corroborating" evidence. But the reality is, if they've got all of this other supposed evidence against you, that makes the case harder to defend, not easier. And the truth is, many Criminal Sexual Conduct cases are simply based on an accusation alone.

During jury selection, a skilled prosecutor will be certain to get every potential juror to commit to convict you even if they can't produce supporting or "corroborating" evidence. The prosecutor will strike any juror that feels that this isn't right – any juror who says they would demand corroborating evidence. For this reason, your CSC Defense Attorney must know how to respond.

When it is your defense attorney's turn to stand up and question the jury, they must get a commitment that the verdict can only be guilty IF the accuser's testimony proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Jurors must understand that this means beyond and to the exclusion of each and every reasonable doubt. In other words, if each juror has just one doubt that is reasonable, they must find you not guilty. Your CSC Defense Lawyer must make the jury understand this, as well as appreciate how very high the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt is.

Obviously, there are many many aspects to properly defending a CSC charge. This article addresses but one of them. For more information, please visit our Michigan Sex Crimes Main Page, or click the link throughout this article to visit some of our other blog articles about Criminal Sexual Conduct. The best Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Lawyer can be the key to your freedom and protecting your future.

When it comes to hiring the right Criminal Defense Attorney to protect your life, making the right choice is critical. Don't be one of the many people facing CSC charges who wait until the last minute to discover that the Attorney they once thought was the right choice truly doesn't know how to handle your case. Make the right choice the first time around, and you'll never have to look back...
At Prain Law, PLLC, we specifically concentrate on defending those accused of crimes involving assault, including sexual assault and CSC crimes. These are some of the most serious criminal charges a person can face, and a conviction almost always means Prison time. Criminal Defense Attorney Brian J. Prain, was recently named one of the Top 20 Criminal Defense Lawyers in Detroit for 2016. Brian has also been named Top 10 Criminal Defense Lawyer Under 40 by both the NACDA and AIOCLA, Top 10 Trial Lawyer Under 40 by The National Trial Lawyers, Top 100 by The National Trial Lawyers, Premier 100 by the American Academy of Trial Attorneys, and one of the Nation's Top 1% by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel. Brian can be found in Super Lawyers Magazine and Hour Detroit Magazine. Brian's firm, Prain Law, PLLC has been named by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys as one of the "Ten Best Law Firms" for client satisfaction.
If you are facing a Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct charge, call Prain Law, PLLC anytime at (248) 731-4543.

Contact Prain Law, PLLC

Schedule a Free & Confidential Consultation
  • Please enter your name.
  • This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please select an option.
  • Please select an option.
  • Please enter a message.
    • Please agree to the following.

Prain Law, PLLC is focused only on the types charges featured on our website. This helps us deliver the decisive, effective advocacy for which our clients know us. We only serve individuals currently under investigation or who have a current case pending in court. Our firm does not represent injury victims, defendants who have already taken a plea or have been sentenced, or those seeking to expunge a criminal record. We do not respond to anyone who is not involved in a pending investigation or who has a court case for a type of charge we do not handle, but we wish you the very best of luck.