Many people assume that all sexual offenders are dangerous rapists, a common misconception. Rape--or, as it is known in statutory law, criminal sexual conduct--has many layers. It can include both consensual and nonconsensual sex and, in some instances, requires no sexual activity at all.
Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) in the first degree is a felony, generally punishable by up to life in prison. Typically, CSC in the first degree involves sexual activity with a person under 13; one who is between 13 and 16 but where the other is a blood relation, the victim's teacher or other person of authority; or where force or coercion or fear of bodily harm is used to accomplish the act. While penetration is generally a necessary element of CSC in the first degree, if the victim is under 13 any type of sexual contact is prohibited.
Criminal Sexual Conduct in the second degree is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison in some states and as many as 25 in others. The conduct prohibited by CSC in the second degree is virtually identical to CSC is the first degree, the only difference being that second degree does not require actual penetration. Sexual contact short of penetration is enough.
Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. While penetration is an essential element here and prohibited activity includes the use of force or coercion, CSC in the third degree is more limited in scope than CSC in the first degree. The most obvious difference is that it does not address conduct between members of the same family or the actions of someone in a position of trust or authority.
A felony punishable by up to 10 years, CSC in the fourth degree is similar to CSC in the third degree except that whereas penetration is an essential element of CSC third degree, sexual contact short of penetration is all that is required for CSC in the fourth degree.
Misdemeanor Criminal Sexual Conduct
The actions that constitute misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct are much more difficult to pin down, as jurisdictions differ greatly on this matter. However, it is safe to say that Misdemeanor CSC is usually reserved for lesser offenses, such as exposing oneself to another. In some instances misdemeanor CSC is punishable by two years in prison.
One thing common to all sex offenders, whether convicted under a felony or misdemeanor, is the need to register with local authorities and to comply with any reasonable restrictions upon where they may reside in relation to schools, parks, etc.
Laws differ from state to state. Always consult with a local, licensed attorney if you have any questions or concerns.
- Michigan Compiled Statutes §§750.520b; 750.520c; 750.520d; 750.520e; and 28.723
- Minnesota Statutes §§609.342; 609.343; 609.344; 609.345; and 609.3451
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