What is Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct? CSC 4 Definition

Criminal Sexual ConductFourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan ("CSC 4") is a "high court misdemeanor" - the law calls it a misdemeanor, but it is punished as a felony. The actual Michigan 4th Degree CSC law, MCL 750.520e makes it punishable by up to 2 years in State Prison. This law is long, complicated, and difficult to read and interpret. Although you may have read the CSC 4 law, you may still be wondering "What is the definition of Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct?"

Well, you're in luck. Read on, and we will break down CSC 4 into simple terms. Most web pages you'll find when you search Google for "CSC 4" only offer a copy and paste of the Michigan law duplicated directly from the Michigan Legislature website. But you won't find that here. In this page, we will explain Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in a way that is easy to understand.

RELATED: click HERE to read about CSC Attorney Brian J. Prain's most recent 2019 Criminal Sexual Conduct NOT GUILTY verdicts.

Of course, as with any resource on CSC, use of graphic terms may be necessary to be accurate. QUICK NOTE: we do not address the Sentence for CSC 4 in Michigan in here. To educate yourself about the Sentence for CSC 4, Sex Offender Registration, and more about the consequences of Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan, see our Main Page for Fourth Degree CSC.

To begin with, understand that every Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct case is based on some form of "sexual contact." Michigan law defines, "sexual contact" as including:

  • intentionally touching the genital area of another person, or intentionally making them touch your genital area;
  • intentionally touching the groin of another person, or intentionally making them touch your groin;
  • intentionally touching the inner thigh of another person, or intentionally making them touch your inner thigh;
  • intentionally touching the buttocks of another person, or making them touch your buttocks; or
  • intentionally touching the breast of another person, or making them touch your breast.
RELATED: click to read about another Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct "NOT GUILTY" verdict for CSC Defense Attorney Brian J. Prain.

You should realize that CSC 4 only covers "sexual contact." If there is an allegation of "sexual penetration" in the State of Michigan, the charge will be either First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct or Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. "Sexual contact" is different that other types of "contact" because it means intentional touching "done for sexual purposes or which could reasonably be construed as having been done for sexual purposes." In any case, where a person is charged with Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, the government must prove this fact beyond a reasonable doubt. But of course, not all touching for "sexual purposes" is illegal. Adults of legal age are allowed to engage in consensual sexual contact. So what takes sexual contact outside the boundaries of the law so that a person faces up to 2 years in Prison?

The answer falls into one of several different categories depending on the age of the parties involved, their relationship, and whether the alleged act was by force versus consensual. Here are the categories that can turn "sexual contact" into the crime of 4th Degree CSC:

1) The Alleged Victim's Age: If you engage in an act that meets the definition of "sexual contact" (above) with a person who is 13 years of age or older, but not yet 16 years of age, you are guilty of Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct if you are 5 or more years older than that person. For example, if a 20 year-old man touches the breast of a 15 year-old girl with no other conceivable, reasonable explanation than for sexual purposes, he has committed CSC 4. It doesn't matter if the girl consented or not. The age factor alone is enough to make the accused guilty.

2) Force or Coercion Used: When "sexual contact" happens under circumstances where "force or coercion" is used to accomplish the contact, that's CSC 4 under Michigan law. In modern CSC law, "force or coercion" has sort-of replaced the concept of "consent." The prosecution no longer has the initial burden to prove that the alleged victim did not consent (however, consent is still a defense to a Criminal Sexual Conduct charge). Force or coercion includes (but is not limited to): overcoming the alleged victim through actual use of physical force, making credible threats to use force or violence that the alleged victim believes might actually happen, using threats of retaliation against the alleged victim or someone else, engaging in medical treatment in a way that is not ethical or acceptable, and using concealment or the element of surprise. If you were to accomplish sexual contact by any of these means, you would be guilty of Fourth Degree CSC in Michigan. For example, pushing the alleged victim into a secluded location and grabbing their genital area, breast, or buttocks is Fourth Degree CSC. RELATED: Definition of "Force or Coercion" in Michigan (scroll down on the page).

3) Mental or Physical State of Alleged Victim: Sexual contact with an alleged victim who is mentally incapable, mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless is Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. "Mentally incapable" means that the alleged victim has a mental condition that makes them unable to understand the physical or moral nature of their conduct. "Mentally disabled" generally means the person has a mental problem that is so significant that they cannot distinguishing reality from fiction and which makes them unable to cope with the ordinary demands of life. "Mentally incapacitated" means the alleged victim was in a state where they were unable to understand or control what they were doing because of drugs or alcohol given to them, or because of something done to them without their consent. "Physically helpless" means the alleged victim was unconscious, asleep, or physically unable to communicate that he/she did not want to take part in the alleged act. For example, a person who has "sexual contact" with someone suffering from schizophrenia may find themselves facing a Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct charge in Michigan. RELATED: click here for our detailed article on the Definition of Mentally Incapable, Mentally Disabled, Mentally Incapacitated, or Physically Helpless in Michigan's CSC laws.

4) Family Ties: It is Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Fourth Degree to engage in sexual contact with a person who you are related to, "by blood or affinity to the third degree." For example, an uncle touching his niece (let's say his wife's sister's daughter) in a sexual way. However, if you are charged with CSC 4 because of family a family relationship, you can raise the defense that the alleged victim was in a position of authority over you and used that authority to coerce you to engage in the alleged sexual contact. For example, imagine that an 18 year-old man works as a delivery driver for his aunt's printing business. His aunt, who is a twisted, sexual predator coerces him into letting her fondle him by threatening that if he refuses, she'll fire him and tell his parents he's on drugs. When other employees learn what happened, she calls the police claiming to be a "victim" of sexual assault. Because the young man is three-times her size, they don't believe him and charge him with CSC 4 because of the familial relationship. At his trial, he can raise the defense that he was coerced by someone in a position of authority. However, it will be his burden to produce evidence of that fact, and he must convince the jury that his version is more likely than not to be true (a "preponderance of the evidence").

5) Mental Health Professionals: Therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and the like may not engage in sexual contact with a patient, client or former patient or client for at least two years after the client/patient relationship has ended. Consider this scenario: Jane, a beautiful young fitness instructor sees Dr. John, a young, successful psychologist, to treat her mild anxiety. She sees Dr. John for 12 sessions over the course of one year, and then stops showing up. However, one day three months after her sessions ended, she calls Dr. John when she was having a mental breakdown, and he offers some professional advice. One year and 10 months later, Jane sees Dr. John at a "singles" party, where she admits she's always had a crush on him and asks if they can talk privately in her car. When they get in her car, she immediately kisses Dr. John, and he ends up caressing her breast without removing her shirt. She tells him how much she's enjoying it, and repeatedly suggests that they "go for third base." Dr. John replies "I don't think that'd be a good idea, I'm a professional" and he ends it there with a hug and a "good night." A month later, Dr John gets a call from a Detective about a "sexual assault" he supposedly committed. Perplexed, he goes to the Police Department and is immediately arrested for CSC 4. Why? Jane hadn't been to a session with Dr. John in well over two years. True, but the fact she called for advice within the last two years and Dr. John gave professional advice is evidence (read it again - evidence) that there was still a psychologist-patient relationship within the last two years. But Jane is the aggressor, and Dr. John is the one saying "no" and ending it. Also true, but the law specifically says that consent is not a defense to this crime. Mental health professionals should avoid all sexual contact with clients and patients.

6) Students and Teachers: There could be potential for Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct charges where the alleged victim is a student at a school who is at least 16 years old but less-than 18 years old, depending on who the accused person is. If the accused person is a teacher, substitute teacher, or administrator at that school and allegedly engages in sexual contact with that student, they will be charged with CSC 4, unless there are other circumstances which would raise the charge to the more serious Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Those who are not teachers or administrators, but who are employees, subcontracted employees doing work at the school (or the school district at large), non-student volunteers (or the district at large), or government workers providing services to that school (or, again, the district at large) who engage in sexual contact with a student in that age range are guilty of CSC 4. As an example, consider a 25-year-old electrician, Jeff, who owns a company called ABC Electric. ABC has been hired by USA-Ville High School to replace the wiring in the school's TV production room. While there, he meets Kelly, a 17-year-old junior, who confesses she is interested in him. When school gets out one day, he takes her to lunch, and in the car, she kisses him, and he grabs her buttocks. She tries to unzip his pants, but he stops her saying "I'd never do anything like that." Even though Jeff is exercising restraint, he may still be charged with 4th Degree CSC.

7) Special Education Students: A person can be charged with Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct for engaging in "sexual conduct" (of course, defined the same as above) with a person who is at least 16 years old, but less than 26 years old and who is receiving special education services. In order for charges to be brought under the Michigan Fourth Degree CSC law, the accused person must be a teacher, substitute teacher, administrator, employee, or contractual service provider of the school where the alleged victim receives special education services or the accused must be a non-student volunteer, or is an employee of this state or of a local unit of government of this state or of the United States assigned to provide any service to that school, and uses that status to gain access to the alleged victim or establish a relationship with the alleged victim. For example, if a high school food service worker has sexual contact with a 25-year-old student who is still in high school because they receive special education services, that violates the Michigan CSC 4th Degree law.

8) Foster Homes and Child Care Organizations: The eighth and final category of circumstances where sexual contact can amount to CSC 4 charges in Michigan is where the alleged victim is a resident who is at least 16 years old in a foster home or group home. If sexual contact occurs between one of those residents and any person who is an employee, contractual service provider, or volunteer of a child care organization, or any person person licensed to operate a foster family home or a foster family group home, then they have committed CSC 4 under Michigan law.

About the author: Brian J. Prain, a top-ranked Metro Detroit Criminal Defense Attorney, has been nationally ranked as a Top 10 Criminal Defense Lawyer Under 40 by NACDA, has received both of the two exclusive and prestigious awards from The National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer and Top 40 Trial Lawyer Under 40 - Michigan), was one of 55 lawyers nationwide in 2013 to attend Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming, and has been featured in publications such as Super Lawyers Magazine and Hour Detroit Magazine. Brian has also been named one of the Top 21 Criminal Defense Lawyers in Detroit by Expertise.com and was named one of DBusiness Magazine's Top Lawyers, 2019.

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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.