What is the difference between 1st 2nd and 3rd degree sexual assault

Deborah C. Escalante

Perhaps no charge, except murder, creates more fear in a defendant than a criminal sexual conduct (CSC) charge. To be convicted of one of these charges is to labeled by many people in society as a sexual predator or a child molester. There are four categories of sexual assault charges in Michigan. A person convicted of CSC charges in the first, second and third degree will almost certainly be sentenced to prison time. The vast majority of people convicted of CSC in the fourth degree usually spend some time in jail.  People convicted for these crimes also have to register as a sex offender in Michigan. This article will deal with the differences between the four categories. This blog post will clearly explain the differences between differences between 1st 2nd 3rd Degree Sexual Assault. 

In order to figure out what type of a criminal sexual assault charges a person might be facing, a determination must be determined to see if there was penetration. Penetration does not mean only sexual intercourse, it also includes oral sex, an intrustion of any part of the human body into anal or genital openings. 

If an allegation of sexual assault includes any type of penetration, it will fall into 1st degree or 3rd degree CSC. 

The Truth About Criminal Sexual Assault

Do you know someone who has been charged or convicted of criminal sexual assault?

Are you wondering what the maximum penalty is for criminal sexual assault?

Being charged with criminal sexual assault could have life-altering consequences. Consequences include prison time, registering for the sex offender registry, and or jail time. It is vital to have the facts and, more importantly, understand those facts.

Charged with Criminal Sexual Assault

When charged with criminal sexual assault, the “actor” will be charged with one of four degrees of criminal sexual conduct. Before we break down each degree of criminal sexual conduct (CSC), let’s start with a few definitions. These definitions will help in clarifying each degree of CSC and are provided by the Michigan Penal Code Section 750.520a.

  • The actor is the person accused of criminal sexual conduct.
  • Intimate parts are defined as “primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock, or breast” of a person.
  • Sexual contact is defined as any deliberate touching of other person’s intimate parts. It can also be defined as the deliberate touching of another person’s clothing covering intimate parts for sexual arousal.
  • Sexual penetration is defined by sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or “intrusion” into a genital or anal opening by any other body part or object.
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For more definitions, please refer to the Michigan Penal Code at the Michigan Legislature website. First and third degrees involve a sexual assault that includes sexual penetration. Second and fourth degrees involve sexual assault with sexual contact.

First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

When someone is charged with criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, “sexual penetration,” defined above, is involved and one of the possible situations below.

  • The victim is under the age of 13.
  • The victim is over the age of 13 but under the age of 16 and one of the following:
    • The actor or the person accused of sexual assault is a part of the same household as the victim.
    • The actor is blood-related to the victim.
    • The actor is in a position of authority over the victim and used force or coerce.
    • The actor is a teacher, substitute teacher, or an administrator at a public school.
  • Use of a weapon or an object that appears to be a weapon.
  • The actor uses physical force or physical violence to overcome the victim.

First degree criminal sexual conduct is a felony charge. If convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, the actor or defendant will face life in prison and requirements to wear an electronic monitor for life. For a list of all circumstances pertaining to criminal sexual conduct in the first degree as defined by the Michigan Legislature, please see Section 750.520b.

Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

When someone is charged with criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, there has been “sexual contact.” Sexual contact is defined above and includes sexual contact with any one of the following situations.

  • The victim is under the age of 13.
  • The victim is over the age of 13 but under the age of 16 and one of the following:
    • The actor is a part of the same household as the victim.
    • The actor is blood-related to the victim.
    • The actor is in a position of authority over the victim and used force or coerce.
    • The actor is a teacher, substitute teacher, or an administrator at a public school.
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Second degree criminal sexual conduct is a felony charge, and if convicted, you could face up to 15 years in prison and be required to wear an electronic monitor. For the entire list of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, please see Section 750.520c of the Michigan Legislature’s website.

Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

When someone is charged with third degree criminal sexual conduct, again like first degree, there is some form of sexual penetration and one of the following situations.

  • The victim is between 13 years of age and 16 years of age.
  • When penetration is accomplished by force or coercion.
  • When the victim is mentally incapable, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless, and the actor knows or has reason to know.

Third degree criminal sexual conduct is a felony charge. If convicted, the defendant faced 15 years in prison. For a full list of situations for criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, according to the Michigan Legislative, please see Section 750.520d.

Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

When someone is charged with fourth degree criminal sexual conduct, it means there was some form of sexual contact and one of the following situations.

  • The victim is between 13 years of age and 16 years of age, and the actor is five or more years older.
  • To accomplish sexual contact, force or coercion was used.
  • When the victim is mentally incapable, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless, and the actor knows or has reason to know.

Fourth degree CSC is a misdemeanor charge, and if convicted, the defendant faces up to 2 years in prison. For the full list of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, please see Section 750.520e at the Michigan Legislature’s website.

Takeaway

It is life alternating to be charged with sexual assault. While most Americans maintain innocence until proved guilty, that is often not the case with these kinds of charges. Make sure that if you or someone you know is being investigated for sexual assault, that they have an experienced criminal defense attorney on their side, fighting for their freedom. Please contact me:

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Disclosure: Please note that the information provided on this website is not legal advice. This information is a general overview for informational purposes only. If you have specific questions about your unique case, please contact my office.

Sexual assault of any type is a serious offense. While many people understand the basic concepts of what constitutes sexual assault, the law differentiates between various degrees of the crime in order to more effectively prosecute offenders. In total, there are four degrees of sexual assault in California.

First degree sexual assault is the most severe type of offense, while fourth degree is the least. In some cases fourth degree sexual assault may be charged as sexual battery, and it’s up to the prosecutor to make that decision.
 

First Degree Sexual Assault

First degree sexual assault (sometimes referred to as aggravated sexual assault) is the most severe degree of the crime.

To be convicted of first degree sexual assault, the prosecution must prove that:

  1. Sexual penetration occurred
  2. One of the following situations:
    • The victim was under the age of 13
    • The victim ranges in age from 13-18, and one of the following:
    1. A member of the same household as the perpetrator
    2. A relative of the perpetrator
    3. The perpetrator was in a position of authority over the victim
  3. The perpetrator was aided by another person or assailant, and one of the following:
    1. The victim was incapacitated
    2. The perpetrator used some form of force or coercion to assault the victim
  4. The perpetrator was armed with a weapon
  5. The victim was injured
  6. The assault occurred while another crime was being committed by the perpetrator

Punishments for first degree sexual assault, while ultimately up to the judge, can result in a life sentence to prison.
 

Second Degree Sexual Assault

Second degree sexual assault differs slightly from first degree in that it doesn’t include sexual penetration. However, from a legal standpoint, it is considered equally as damaging as first degree assault due to the violent nature of the crime and/or the victim’s inability to consent.

To be convicted of second degree sexual assault, the prosecution must prove that:

  1. Sexual contact occurred
  2. Any of the situations listed in the requirements for first degree sexual assault (other than sexual penetration) occurred.

Convictions for second degree sexual assault typically do not result in life imprisonment, but sentences of up to fifteen years are common.

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