Another NOT GUILTY verdict for Criminal Sexual Conduct Lawyer Brian J. Prain

Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct charges are among the most serious and life-altering criminal charges that can be brought against one of our fellow citizens.

Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Attorney Brian J. Prain of Prain Law, PLLC recently achieved another verdict of NOT GUILTY of Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) before a Michigan jury in the trial of a highly contested case where his client was charged with both Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree and Criminal Sexual Conduct 4th Degree.

In this post, we’re omitting the identity of our client and others, the location of the case, and other details to protect the privacy interests of all those involved, but it is beneficial to share some information because this case and others like it offer important lessons to be learned.

Perhaps the most significant thing about the case is that it involved the modern-day phenomenon known as an online “hook-up site” (or “hook-up app”). These are sites or apps which, whether by design or not, have gained a reputation of being used by those seeking short-term encounters without necessarily leading to long-term commitments or lasting relationships. For example, in this particular case, the alleged victim characterized the platform where she and the accused met as a hook-up app, but alleged she was only seeking friends – a claim that we challenged in defense of the client during the recent jury trial.

The basis for the charges was the alleged victim’s claim that after messaging with our client online, they met in-person and he supposedly physically restrained and forcefully sexually assaulted and raped her. At the conclusion of all of the evidence and arguments at trial, the jury found him NOT GUILTY. But as one can imagine, even an innocent person still goes through a great deal of suffering on the pathway toward vindication, and of course there is always the risk of a wrongful conviction for CSC.

But how is it that an innocent person can end up accused and charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct under circumstances like these? Admittedly, a Criminal Sexual Conduct Attorney is not a mental health professional or behavioral scientist, but after years of successfully defending those accused of sex crimes, some common themes do emerge.

Importantly, we feel that there is nothing wrong with consenting adults using “Tinder” or any other app or site to talk, meet up, or do whatever they wish so long as everyone conducts themselves within the boundaries of the law. In-fact, just because certain sites or apps may have gained a reputation as a “hook-up” platform does not mean they were designed by their creators with that purpose in mind, or that they encourage that use. Just look at Facebook today in 2024 versus 20-plus years ago. It seems unlikely that its creators initially could have ever imagined some of the popular social networking site’s current uses. Moreover these days, many of us probably even know someone who met their long-term partner or spouse on Tinder or a similar platform.

But whether people are connected through an app online or out in public at a bar, from the viewpoint of those defending people accused of CSC and other Sex Crimes, the “one night stand” can be a recipe for disaster. Perhaps that’s because sexual relations involve putting one’s self in a position of vulnerability which can lead to shame and regret without the necessary time to first build an emotional bond which would allow a person to feel good about their participation afterwards once the thrill and excitement wears off.

A problem like that can be compounded even more when each individual has a different subjective idea in mind about what level of commitment they expect, if any. Simply put, it is possible for a person to consent to a sexual act freely and willfully and then later decide that they really, really regret it.

But just because someone feels regret, does that give them the right to wrongly accuse the other person of a rape or sexual assault?

Of course not. Each person deals with feelings of regret in their own unique way. Unfortunately, for some that means attempting to rationalize it away by developing a belief over time that it must have been the other person’s fault. In the case of a sexual encounter, because normal people don’t typically stop at every waypoint and verbally ask their partner whether they consent or not, it might be convenient for a regretful partner to simply claim after the fact that they didn’t consent to it in their mind, that they weren’t really interested, that they didn’t want to do it, etc.

In a Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct prosecution based on a claim of allegedly unwanted sexual contact or sexual penetration between two adults (for example, what is commonly referred to as a “date rape” case), the prosecution must typically prove that the Defendant used “force or coercion” to achieve the contact or penetration. “Force or coercion” is defined using a non-exhaustive list of things, but roughly means that the Defendant "either used physical force or did something to make [the Complainant] reasonably afraid of present or future danger."

Further, under Michigan law, jurors are given a non-exhaustive list of things to consider when the defense of consent is raised, but "consent" is essentially defined as “agreeing to [the sexual act] freely and willingly, without being forced or coerced.”

And while it is true that under the Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct laws, the Prosecution does not need to prove that the alleged victim actually resisted the Defendant to convict someone of CSC based on “force or coercion” (for example, physically fighting them off), nor that they did anything to lessen the (alleged) danger to themselves, you can probably appreciate how some Defendants accused of CSC feel as though the legal system expects them to have somehow read the other person’s mind. And there are false accusers who would simply outright LIE about what happened because of their regret, anger, or for revenge.

CLICK HERE to learn about how Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree charges can sometimes be increased to Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree.

And here’s the kicker – while many of us probably assume that these prosecutions would likely involve DNA, scientific evidence, or some other form of corroborating evidence other than just the accuser’s word, the fact is that every jury in a Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct trial is read a jury instruction that informs them that the law is that they can convict based just on the accuser’s word alone: “[t]o 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.” In fact, this is how many CSC cases are essentially presented - and the law allows for it.

In our recent Criminal Sexual Conduct trial, arguably the evidence demonstrated that some of the circumstances described above may have been at play.

Some readers might be wondering, “If anyone can just make a claim of sexual assault without any corroborating evidence and get someone else charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct, even when it’s a complete lie out of pure revenge, then what can anyone ever do to avoid such a disaster?

The silver lining is that some of these cases bear invaluable lessons for those who care to recognize and apply them. Good lawyers don’t pretend to be dating or relationship coaches, but someone in the right field of the behavioral sciences would probably tell us that as human beings, we are all (more or less) naturally wired for pair-bonding. It goes without saying that the stronger the connection, trust and rapport built between two people prior to a relationship becoming sexual in the first place, the chance of the negative emotions of shame, regret, and disappointment ever arising afterwards are greatly reduced.

Plus, there’s a lot to be said for learning just what type of personality and history you’re dealing with before jumping right into bed with someone, if for nothing else then for your own safety, health and well-being. So even if you did meet someone on a “hook-up” app, perhaps it’s worth just declining the invitation until and unless you’re certain they’re someone you’d actually like to spend quality time with – both before and after.

The bottom-line is, when the charge is Criminal Sexual Conduct, even a good case and an innocent Defendant are a challenge to defend because of the significant hurdles to overcome. These trials are very unique, and they require the skill and preparation of an aggressive, hardworking trial lawyer who has tried CSC cases many times before and has proven to be successful.

If you have been accused of CSC in Michigan, contact our Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Attorney to find out what we can do for your freedom, your future, and your peace of mind...


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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.