Defendant charged with third degree criminal sexual conduct upon a thirteen year old girl. Defendant pled guilty at trial but appeals on the grounds that his conviction is not constitutional because he did not have mens rea to commit the offense.
Whether mens rea as to the victim’s age is an essential element for conviction of criminal sexual conduct. In other words, whether statutory rape is a crime of strict liability.
Strict liability exists in Michigan law for statutory rape charges.
No, appeal denied. Strict liability has been upheld in multiple states for statutory rape crimes. That the defendant made a mistake as to the victim’s age is no defense. The strict liability requirement exists because it would be very difficult for a prosecution to proving the a required mental state – that the he was aware of the victim’s age, where the defense claims he reasonably did not know the victim’s age. Statutory rape has long been held as an exception to the traditional requirement of mens rea accompanying a crime. Strict liability furthers a government interest: the protection of children from more mature persons. Moreover, the Supreme Court has never held statutory rape state statutes are unconstitutional where there is strict liability or no element of mens rea.