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In South Haven, Michigan, five high school students were arrested and are now facing charges for statutory rape as adults. The students are all aged 17 or 18, while the single victim is under 16 years old. Apart from the severity of these allegations, the fact that the five students charged with the felonies are on the school's varsity basketball team is making national headlines.
Currently, details on the incident are scant. However, it is believed that there is a sixth suspect, whom police have not arrested or charged, yet. Additionally, it is known that there have been a few encounters dating back to November of last year.
The police were not notified until a school counselor was informed of the encounters by another student this year. Each of the defendants were arraigned, and each bonded out on $1,000, pending trial or resolution of the charges. Currently, all the defendants have been suspended from the school's basketball team, but they have been allowed to return to classes.
Even though, at this time, there are no details regarding whether the sexual assault was forcible, consensual, or coerced, the laws surrounding statutory rape charges don't require these details.
Unlike normal rape charges, statutory rape only looks at whether there was sexual contact and how old the involved parties were at the time of the contact. That means that even if the sex was consented to, a person charged with statutory rape can still be convicted. Under Michigan law, until a person is 17 years old, they cannot legally consent to sex with someone older than them.
If force, trickery, or coercion are used, then statutory rape charges can be enhanced, however those elements are not required. Being charged as adults on just statutory rape charges exposes each of the defendants to up to 15 years in prison, if convicted.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.