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Age of Consent in Michigan: Mistakes not Tolerated

In Michigan, the law on statutory rape is one of the most severe in the United States. In recent years, the law has transitioned from the former “Romeo and Juliet” laws to a strict age of consent with little tolerance for those with no intent of committing a crime. Matthew McManus, Ravi Gurumurthy and Scott Grabel of Ann Arbor, Cadillac and Lansing, Michigan respectively have become leaders in the field of criminal defense. The law is complex and defenses are difficult to apply. Today, we will take a journey that will serve as a GPS system of where the statute currently stands with an explanation of exceptions in place.

“The Law”

Under Michigan’s statutory rape laws, a person commits criminal sexual conduct in the third degree by engaging in sexual penetration (intercourse, oral or anal sex, or digital penetration) with:

·      a child under the age of 16 but over the age of 13, or

·      a child age 16 or 17 if the defendant is a teacher or school employee.

Any sexual activity (including, but not limited to sexual penetration) with a child under the age of 13 or with a child between the ages of 13 and 16 by an adult who is in the child’s family or household or in a position of authority over the child is punished more severely, as first or second degree criminal sexual conduct.

(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 750.520b, 750.520c, 750.520d.)

With this law in place, many are aware of the age of consent but are not overly familiar with the exceptions to the rule. Let’s examine some of the exceptions that can protect the rights of those involved.

“The School Official”

Matthew McManus of McManus PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan recently had a claim dismissed against a client that was charged with both a federal and state violation of statutory rape. In this case, the defendant was a high school teacher and the student that she engaged in consensual sexual relations with was 17. When asked about the case, McManus stated, “The one thing that people did not realize about my client is that she believed the student was 18. The student told my client that he was 18 and my client herself was only 23. The student lied to my client and due to what transpired, there was almost a deadly result. There is no question that my client should’ve been more diligent and thought the situation through but a 23 year-old dating an 18-year old is not the crime of the century but the prosecutor portrayed it as such. We worked hard for a favorable result and according to statutes in our state, mistake is not a valid defense. The actions we took were completely outside the box and many sleepless nights on our end allowed our client to find freedom.”

“The defense of mistake”

In most states, including Michigan, it is not a defense to a charge of statutory rape that the defendant mistakenly believed the child to be of age. This is true even if the victim tells the defendant and others that he or she is older and looks and acts older.[1] This became a difficult situation for a client of Ravi Gurumurthy.

Gurumurthy has quickly developed a reputation as a top criminal lawyer practicing in Cadillac, Michigan. While successful on a recent case, Gurumurthy spoke of the case that he led a charge on that was dismissed because of his knowledge of the constitution: “In our case, my client believed the female was 22. In fact, they met at a bar, they were drinking together, she had identification saying she was of age and she verbally told my client she was a legal adult. My client truly believed that she was not only over the age of 16 but that she was a legal adult. This did not matter to the prosecutor assigned this case. We won the case by displaying that the law enforcement officers in the jurisdiction where the allegation occurred did not follow the constitution in their quest for evidence. In our case, which is sealed for all of the parties’ protection, the Exclusionary Rule was on our side, the law was not. Luckily, the state of Michigan gives a lot of respect to the United States Constitution or the client would’ve lost his freedom despite the defense of mistake.

“Famed Cases”

The top criminal lawyer in the state of Michigan is Scott Grabel of “Grabel and Associates.” With a stellar reputation throughout the state and beyond, Grabel gained a lot of fame on the Zach Anderson case.

The Anderson case is one of the saddest in recent history. Anderson drove from his home in Elkhart, Indiana to her home in Niles, Michigan, about twenty-two miles away, where they had sex. Anderson was nineteen at the time and the girl said that she was seventeen and had registered in the “adults” section of the app. It turns out she was only fourteen and the age of consent in Michigan is sixteen, meaning that Anderson had unknowingly committed statutory rape. With this offense carried Anderson to register as a sex offender despite his lack of intent. With the help and diligence of Scott Grabel and social media, Anderson got his name removed from the registry of 2 different states but very easily could’ve had his life altered for a crime that he never had the intent of committing.

“Where do we stand?”

In the state of Michigan, the reality is that if you want to engage in a sexual relationship with someone you have to beware of the dangers involved. According to the black-letter law, your lack of knowledge is not going to serve as a justification and without a talented lawyer, one night of consensual fun could turn into a lifetime of a loss of freedom. Leaders in criminal law such as McManus, Gurumurthy and Grabel are setting a tone to protect innocent defendants’ from undeserved charges but the reality is that the individual is going to have to protect themselves as well because the law continues to evolve into a deadly situation for all involved.

Matthew McManus can be reached at: [email protected], Ravi Gurumurthy can be reach at [email protected] and Scott Grabel’s website is: https://www.grabellaw.com/.

[1] People v. Cash, 351 NW2d 822 (Mich. 1984).

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