In Michigan there are four degrees of criminal sexual conduct that most sexual offenses fall under. Criminal sexual conduct cases are routinely referred to as CSC cases. So a fourth degree criminal sexual conduct for example, may be referred to as a CSC 4. It is not unusual for a person facing multiple counts to be charged with a mix of charges – i.e. a few counts of first degree CSC and a few counts of second degree CSC.

When people come to our office, they often do not understand the difference between the varying degrees of CSC and want to know what they are looking at. The law is confusing because the seriousness of the offenses does not go in logical order from first to fourth degree counts. So, this little cheat sheet will help you sort it out at least to get started. As always, consult with a lawyer to go over the specifics of your case. This is only meant to give you a preliminary overview.

The first thing you need to know is if you are dealing with a case involving penetration or touching. Penetration includes even the slightest contact between the genital opening. Any case involving cunnilingus on a female is considered a case involving penetration. Our office routinely sees cases involving digital penetration, particularly with our younger clients.

Therefore, if penetration is alleged, you are looking at a first degree CSC or a third degree CSC. If penetration is not alleged, you are looking at a second degree CSC or a fourth degree CSC.

First degree CSC is punishable by up to life in prison and can carry a 25 year mandatory minimum if the alleged victim is under 13 years old. Third degree CSC is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. In order to determine whether you are facing a first or a third degree charge, the age of the complainant matters and whether there is an allegation of force or coercion. If the complainant is under 13 years old, you are most likely looking at a CSC 1 and if they are 13-15, most likely a CSC 3. The complainants can also be adults, however, and factors such as being personally injured can cause a person to be charged with the higher charge of CSC 1.

Second degree CSC is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Fourth degree CSC is a “high court misdemeanor” which means it is only a two year maximum offense. While CSC 2 is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, the sentencing guidelines for a CSC 2 are different than a CSC 3. When you run the guidelines for sentencing, CSC 2 falls into a “C” grid, unlike a CSC 3 which uses the “B” grid. This is not important for you to know other than to understand that the amount of prison time for a CSC 2 will be less than a CSC 3 even though they are both 15 year offenses. Again, what makes the difference between a 2 and a 4 will be the age of the complainant and other factors that can aggravate the charges from a 4 to a 2.

We are happy to help you figure out what to expect. We routinely draw a little chart for our clients so they understand the ins and outs of their case as well. It is important that anyone facing a criminal sexual conduct charge, whether it is a first degree or fourth degree charge, has all the information to understand their case.

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