In our Michigan practice, a number of our criminal sexual conduct defense cases are date-rape type allegations where both the accused and the complaining witness have engaged in a night of drinking. In some cases, the complainant will say they don’t remember a thing and believe they may have been sexually assaulted. In other cases, the complainant will say they did not consent to sexual activity because they were unable to convey that message in their state of intoxication. These are certainly difficult cases, particularly if the accused was also drinking and intoxicated as well.
Mentally Incapacitated or Physically Helpless
Michigan law is clear that it is illegal to take advantage of a mentally incapacitated person or someone who is physically helpless. A mentally incapacitated individual is defined to include those who are unable to understand or control what he or she was doing because of drugs, alcohol or other substances given to him/her. Physically helpless, on the other hand, means that the complainant was unconscious, asleep, or physically unable to communicate that he/she did not want to take part in the alleged act. In order to be convicted, the accused has to know or should have known that the complainant was mentally incapacitated or physically helpless at the time of the alleged act.
The knowledge component for the accused is crucial. There are many times when people are more intoxicated than they realize and still can function like a normal person. I will admit that I have drank too much at times and was able to walk and talk as if everything is fine. But the next day, however, I have experienced gaps in my memory and sometimes a complete blackout of the events from the night before. This is not an uncommon occurrence to about 50% of the population who experience these types of blackouts. And while having a blackout is a horrible feeling that can cause deep regret, it does not necessarily mean that criminal sexual conduct took place. Whether a person was mentally incapacitated or physically helpless at the time is truly fact dependent and very different in every case. Our office has found ways to show that complainants were not in fact physically helpless or mentally incapacitated and there are a number of ways to defend these allegations. Our strategies have led to acquittals by juries and at times, dismissals of charges for our clients.
Changes in the Law
Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a person cannot be convicted for sexually assaulting someone if they are mentally incapacitated due to intoxication. This is true when the person became intoxicated by voluntarily ingesting drugs or alcohol on their own volition. An article about this change can be found here.
It will be interesting to see if this decision by the Court sticks or if the legislature will work to change the law again to address intoxicated alleged victims. This change to the law in Minnesota puts some responsibility on the complainant to manage his or her drinking and is quite the opposite of what lawmakers tend to be focused on in other parts of the country. More often, legislatures and courts want there to be even more requirements on the accused. For example, a requirement there is explicit consent given for the sexual activity.
Contact a Defense Attorney at Our Firm Today
These cases are also the scariest for us parents out there. I am a mom of four and Mariell is a mom of two, and we are both very aware that a situation like this could quickly become a nightmare. Anyone who has been to a party at a young age knows that from time-to-time people drink too much, make bad choices, and possibly don’t remember everything the next day. It is very scary that these types of circumstances could have a lasting impact on a young person’s life. If you are charged with having sex with someone who was too drunk to consent or claims they were physically helpless, our office can help you. These types of criminal sexual conduct cases are among the most serious as the consequences can include prison and registration as a sex offender.
Our goal at Smith Lehman is to find the best outcome so that these kinds of circumstances do not ruin the rest of a young person’s life. Call today to schedule a consultation.