Legislative Note: Micigan’s Criminal Sexual Assault Law

Under increasing pressure from women’s rights groups and other reform organizations, the Michigan legislature has re-evaluated its centenarian rape statute, found it inadequate for the realities of the mid-twentieth century, and enacted a new sexual assault act. While people may refer to the act as “the new rape law,” it should be noted at the outset that the statute is intended to prohibit a variety of sexual acts which involve criminal assault. Michigan’s new criminal sexual assault law was formulated to distinguish among degrees of violence as motivated by hostility rather than passion; rape, like other crimes, is more heinous in certain contexts than others. The new law acknowledges that criminal sexual conduct is generally a premeditated crime of violence rather than a crime provoked by the victim’s behavior. The victim is no longer required to resist. Where force is used, it is now presumed that the victim did not consent. Similarly, evidence is limited to that which applies to the specific crime rather than evidence concerning the victim’s past sexual behavior. This note will analyze the specific provisions of the new bill and discuss the policies behind the evidentiary changes.