Sexual Assault Accusers Who Change Their Story

Woman Testifying
I dedicate a substantial portion of my practice to defending those accused of Criminal Sexual Conduct ("CSC"). Understandably, those facing CSC charges are are put off by the fact that their accuser may, over the course of of the entire case, change their story - and sometimes quite significantly. This is particularly true in the case of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, where the accuser is often a young child. Accusations of 1st Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct often begin with the child making their claims of sexual abuse to a parent, teacher, or other adult. When the allegations are brought to law-enforcement, the child is taken in for a forensic interview, such as those done at CARE House of Macomb County and Oakland County, Michigan, or the counterpart for CSC charges in Wayne County, Michigan, called Kids Talk. From there, the child may testify at a hearing called a Preliminary Examination, and ultimately at a Trial if the case reaches that stage.
Related: Preliminary Exams in Criminal Sexual Conduct Cases.
Michigan CSC charges have four basic categories, First Degree CSC under MCL 750.520b, Second Degree CSC under MCL 750.520c, Third Degree CSC under MCL 750.520d, and Fourth Degree CSC under MCL 750.520e, with First Degree CSC (also referred to as "CSC 1") being the most serious, carrying up to LIFE in Prison, mandatory lifetime Sex Offender Registration, mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring (tether), and even possible consecutive sentencing if you're facing multiple counts of CSC.
Many CSC First Degree charges in Michigan arise out of allegations of sexual penetration of a person "under age 13." This is one of the multiple variables of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan. If you are convicted of First Degree CSC involving a minor under those circumstances, the sentence he is a mandatory minimum of 25 years in Prison. It doesn't get any more serious than that, and one would wonder why the Prosecution would want to stake their case on such a weak foundation as an accuser who can't even seem to get their story straight.
In the reality of a criminal defense attorney's world, it is not uncommon for an alleged sexual assault victim's story to grow, change, evolve, and even expand over time to include completely new allegations that were never stated before. There are many reasons for this, including the influence of a vengeful adult over the child, false implanted memories (psychology has proven this), projecting the abuse done by one person onto another who is innocent because of psychological barriers, and just plain lying out of spite. But regardless of the reason, one of the most common Criminal Sexual Conduct frequently asked questions is "How can I still be charged with CSC when my accuser keeps changing their story?" Because we at Prain Law, PLLC are asked this question on a regular basis, it is worth taking the time to discuss the laws regarding this in CSC prosecutions.
Contrary to population belief, there is NO law stating that the government cannot prosecute you for Criminal Sexual Conduct or any other crime just because your accuser changes their story. In-fact, most Prosecutors have directly or indirectly stated their intention to continue prosecuting you under those circumstances. This may be true even if the accuser later denies that you ever even sexually assaulted her at all - the Prosecution is likely to simply "flip the script," claiming that you still sexually assaulted her but that now she is recanting out of "fear" or "pressure." It may feel like you can't win. Even if you pass a polygraph in a CSC case, the Prosecutor's may continue to charge you. Even worse, many lawyers who lack experience in Criminal Sexual Conduct fail to understand this. Don't get stuck paying one of these lawyers the big bucks only to have that lawyer learn this costly legal lesson at your expense.
What this means in practical reality is that while an accused person is on trial for Criminal Sexual Conduct and the accuser on the witness stand testifies to something that contradicts their previous stories to adults and Police, their statement during the forensic interview, or their Preliminary Examination testimony, even in very significant ways, the Prosecutor's quest for a conviction will continue anyway and the law says thats okay. In-fact, you can be both charged and convicted of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan based on "hearsay" without any DNA, outside witnesses, or other corroborating evidence.
In-fact, a skillful Prosecutor will try to get the Jury to agree from the start to ideas such as "Don't we all know that children remember things differently sometimes, right?," and "We all agree that a person who has been through a traumatic experience might forget some things or making a mistake telling the story...don't we?" Yes, the jurors agree. How can you be acquitted of Criminal Sexual Conduct under these circumstances?
All of these problems can be effectively dealt with and you absolutely can be found NOT GUILTY of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan. At PrainLaw, PLLC, we care far too much about the outcome of our cases to publish our winning strategies here on the internet for overzealous Prosecutors and false accusers to see. But that doesn't mean you cannot benefit from them as you fight your CSC charges. However, we first need to establish an attorney-client relationship with you before revealing our strategies to you so that they are effective for you. Nevertheless, in a very general sense, here are a few bullet-points on how the problems of CSC accusers changing their story and the Prosecution's tricky tactics can be solved by a CSC Defense Attorney:
  • Expert witness testimony. Many qualified experts will directly contradict these ideas Prosecutors are selling to put innocent people in Prison, such as "A person wouldn't accuse someone of sexual assault if it weren't true." The best research demonstrates the exact opposite.
  • Effective jury selection questioning. Just as the Prosecutor wants jurors to commit to phony ideas such as "We all agree that trauma makes things harder to remember, don't we?", an effective CSC Defense Attorney will have plenty of examples from the start to begin to contradict and neutralize these lies by calling upon the jurors' common-sense and everyday experience.
  • Continue to highlight the inconsistencies. What good is a poor defense lawyer who hears the jurors agree that "Kids change their story even when they're being truthful" and then becomes too scared to highlight the inconsistencies for fear the jury will dislike them or disagree with them? That lawyer is just someone who looks like they agree with the Prosecutor's unproven theories. To the contrary, when the proper groundwork is laid, this is what actually and should win your CSC case. Another fact that is just as true is that kids also lie, and one reason they may change their story is because they have no real story to tell.
  • Change your attitude. Remember, every time your accuser changes their story, it is an opportunity to expose their lack of credibility. Every time your accuser tells a new tale, it is a gift, and your Sexual Assault Defense Lawyer had better expose it for what it is - the law says your lawyer owes you that duty.
Know someone who's charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan? Tell them they'll need two important ingredients for their defense:
First, the fighting spirit to battle the case to the bitter end. Second, the determination to scrutinize every detail and win against the odds. Michigan Sexual Assault Lawyer Brian J. Prain is that lawyer.

Among the many awards and commendations Brian J. Prain has received for his work in defending those accused of these awful crimes, Brian has been named one of the Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Detroit by, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Michigan by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and one of the Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers.

Call Prain Law, PLLC right now at (248) 731-4543.


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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.