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What Is A “Crime Against Nature” In Michigan?

| Nov 30, 2020 | Sex Offenses |

 

A “crime against nature” is a legal term with English roots that involves sexual acts not considered to be decent or acceptable by society (e.g. not traditional vaginal intercourse between a man and a woman).  Sexual practices that have been prosecuted as “crimes against nature” include masturbation, sodomy (e.g. same-sex relations), anal intercourse, incest and bestiality.  While society has advanced significantly in the last two hundred years to decriminalize most sexual behavior between consenting adults, the statute of crime against nature remains on the books in Michigan and continues to punish certain conduct.

MCL 750.158 punishes crime against nature as follows:

  • “Any person who shall commit the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 15 years, or if such person was at the time of the said offense a sexually delinquent person, may be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life.”

A person convicted of this offense will be required to register as a Tier II Offender on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry (report twice per year for 25 years) if the victim as a minor unless EITHER of the following applies:

  • The victim consented to the conduct constituting the violation, the victim was at least 13 years of age but less than 16 years of age at the time of the violation, and the individual is not more than 4 years older than the victim. MCL 28.722(u)(v)(A).
  • The victim consented to the conduct constituting the violation, the victim was 16 or 17 years of age at the time of the violation, and the victim was not under the custodial authority of the individual at the time of the violation. MCL 28.722(u)(v)(B).

“Sexually delinquent person” means “any person whose sexual behavior is characterized by repetitive or compulsive acts which indicate a disregard of consequences or the recognized rights of others, or by the use of force upon another person in attempting sex relations of either a heterosexual or homosexual nature, or by the commission of sexual aggressions against children under the age of 16.”  MCL 750.10a.  For the life offense enhancement, the prosecutor must prove at a separate hearing from the plea or trial that the defendant fits the criteria of “sexually delinquent person”.  MCL 767.61a. The prosecutor must allege that he or she is seeking the “sexually delinquent person” enhancement in the felony information instead of waiting until there is a conviction to make that decision. People v Winford, 404 Mich 400; 273 NW2d 54 (1978).  Advance notice is required so the defendant may be given the opportunity to properly defend against a potential life-in-prison offense.

Michigan also has more specific criminal statutes on premarital cohabitation, homosexual behavior, lewdness and gross indecency:

  • LEWD AND LASCIVIOUS COHABITATION AND GROSS LEWDNESS – “Any man or woman, not being married to each other, who lewdly and lasciviously associates and cohabits together, and any man or woman, married or unmarried, who is guilty of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00. No prosecution shall be commenced under this section after 1 year from the time of committing the offense.” MCL 750.335.
  • GROSS INDECENCY BETWEEN MALES – “Any male person who, in public or in private, commits or is a party to the commission of or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of any act of gross indecency with another male person shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500.00, or if such person was at the time of the said offense a sexually delinquent person, may be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life.” MCL 750.338.
  • GROSS INDECENCY BETWEEN FEMALES – “Any female person who, in public or in private, commits or is a party to the commission of, or any person who procures or attempts to procure the commission by any female person of any act of gross indecency with another female person shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500.00, or if such person was at the time of the said offense a sexually delinquent person, may be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life.” MCL 750.338a.
  • GROSS INDECENCY BETWEEN MALES AND FEMALES – “Any male person who, in public or in private, commits or is a party to the commission of any act of gross indecency with a female person shall be guilty of a felony, punishable as provided in this section. Any female person who, in public or in private, commits or is a party to the commission of any act of gross indecency with a male person shall be guilty of a felony punishable as provided in this section. Any person who procures or attempts to procure the commission of any act of gross indecency by and between any male person and any female person shall be guilty of a felony punishable as provided in this section. Any person convicted of a felony as provided in this section shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500.00, or if such person was at the time of the said offense a sexually delinquent person, may be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life.” MCL 750.338b.

It should be noted that, while these preceding statutes are still on the books, they are rarely enforced by police officers and prosecutors.  In addition, Michigan’s criminal statutes are largely unenforceable with respect to consenting homosexual behavior.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558; 123 S.Ct 2472; 156 L.Ed.2d 508 (2003) that state statutes prohibiting private homosexual activity between consenting adults violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  This decision overruled the Court’s opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986) only 17 years earlier where the majority upheld a Georgia sodomy law with respect to homosexual sodomy, not heterosexual sodomy.  Now, every prosecutor in the country, including Michigan, is prevented from prosecuting sodomy among consenting homosexual adults.  However, this protection does not apply if the sodomy involves minors, incest or force and coercion.

MCL 750.158 still encompasses bestiality, which is “abominable and detestable crimes[s] against nature” with an animal.  People v Carrier, 74 Mich App 161, 165; 254 NW2d 35 (1977).  An act of bestiality includes any sexual connection between a human being and an animal.  Id at 166.  However, a conviction due to bestiality (sexually assaulting an animal) does not require the defendant to register on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry.  People v Haynes, 256 Mich App 341; 664 NW2d 225 (2003).

The crime against nature statute does not prohibit necrophilia.  In People v Hutner, 209 Mich App 280; 530 NW2d 174 (1995), the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that a dead body is not a person for the purposes of prosecution under a sexual assault theory.  The majority determined that “[t]his state appears to have no statute that specifically proscribes necrophilia” and “[t]his is an issue that our Legislature may wish to address.”  Id at 284.

A person charged with a crime against nature should not take the accusation lightly.  A conviction can result in a lengthy incarceration and the requirement to verify your information on a public sex offender database for many years.  If you are determined to be a “sexually delinquent person”, you can spend the rest of your natural life behind bars.  You need a skilled criminal defense lawyer that can protect your rights, assert all defenses available at law, and hold the prosecutor to the constitutional standard of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Your life and your future cannot settle for anything less.

If you or a loved one is charged with any crime and need legal representation, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.

 

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