First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct - Accused Gets New Trial

First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct ("CSC1") is the most serious of all the Degrees Of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan. If you are convicted of Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree, you face up to life in prison. And if the alleged victim was under 13 years of age and you were 17 years of age or older at the time of the alleged act, the Michigan First-Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct law, MCL 750.520b, states that you must serve a mandatory minimum of 25 years.

These prison terms are all in addition to:

  • Lifetime electronic monitoring
  • Lifetime public Sex Offender Registration, and
  • Possible consecutive sentencing

In short, one could easily say that a Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree charge is more serious than a Murder charge.

Now, imagine that you have been charged with Murder, but there is no deceased body, no actual evidence that anyone has gone missing or been killed, no eyewitnesses, and the only so-called "evidence "against you is that someone with a history of animosity toward you has gone to authorities and claimed that you supposedly killed someone with malice. Does that sound absurd? It should…

Well, by way of analogy, that's essentially the exact situation many people accused of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan are facing. What is more, if you take your First Degree CSC charge to trial and maintain your innocence all the way, the Judge will read a standard Jury Instruction to the jurors right before they begin deliberating. These instructions specifically tell them that you can be convicted of CSC based solely on the testimony of your accuser without any additional evidence if they believe your accuser beyond a reasonable doubt.

Then, you factor in the stigma placed upon those accused of any type of Sexual Assault in our society today as a result of famous cases like Harvey Weinstein, R Kelly, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, and others, and it might leave you thinking, "How could anyone possibly overcome this?"

Well, as a Michigan Criminal Defense practice concentrating specifically on and defending people accused of Criminal Sexual Conduct, let us assure you that it absolutely can be done. Not every case is winnable, but knowledge, training, skill, and experience in handling these cases can carry the day where other "general "practice Criminal Defense Attorneys leave off.

Recent Rulings on “Vouching” Criminal Sexual Conduct Convictions

Perhaps it's because the stakes are so high in these cases that recently, the Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have issued a series of rulings overturning Criminal Sexual Conduct convictions (and often specifically CSC 1st Degree convictions) and granting new trials for the accused. Many of these recent rulings center around the practice of what the law refers to as improper "vouching" for the credibility of the accuser by expert witnesses.

In our law, "vouching" essentially means a witness either directly or indirectly testifying to something that amounts to a conclusion such as "the accuser is a true victim," or "the sexual abuse actually did happen," or "the Defendant is guilty," or similar. In our legal system, witnesses testify to facts and some limited opinions, but only Juries are empowered to express their determination of a person's guilt or innocence.

We have written articles detailing many of these recent rulings. For example, in January and February of 2021, we discussed the reversal of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct convictions in the Michigan Court of Appeals cases People v. Deleon and People v. Brooks, where the prosecution called experts who testified to things that essentially amounted to claims that child accusers rarely ever lie, and that they would need to have a motive or a payoff in order to lie.

In March of 2021, the Court of Appeals published their decision in the case of People v. Yensen, Unpublished Opinion, Docket No. 350176, where they reversed the accused's convictions for First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct based on the same type of improper vouching by both a psychological expert witness and a doctor called by the prosecution, much like in the Brooks case mentioned above.

Most recently, in August of 2021, we published an article detailing the Michigan Supreme Court case of People v. Uribe, where a Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree conviction was overturned based on what the Court deemed "vouching" for the accuser by a doctor who testified for the prosecution.

No doubt, if you are facing charges of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan, you're up against a lot. But the Michigan Courts have spoken loud and clear again and again that "vouching" is out – if an expert vouches, the conviction will be overturned – period. However, it is important to note that unless there has been some type of planning in advance by the experts, the fault does not lie with them. Many of these individuals whose testimony caused these cases to be overturned are simply good people who don't work in the legal system doing their best to answer the lawyer's questions.

At Prain Law, PLLC, we only handle new cases and don't do appeals or handle post-conviction matters, but with the right defense strategy and a little luck, it is possible to avoid ever having to be convicted in the first place. If you or someone you know is facing charges of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, contact Prain Law, PLLC immediately at (248) 731-4543 or online using our contact form. We have achieved many verdicts of NOT GUILTY of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct under circumstances where others believed that victory was impossible.

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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.