Law School Case Brief
People v. Cash - 419 Mich. 230, 351 N.W.2d 822 (1984)
A good-faith or reasonable mistake as to the complainant's age is not a defense to a statutory rape charge. It is well established that the legislature may, pursuant to its police powers, define criminal offenses without requiring proof of a specific criminal intent and so provide that the perpetrator proceed at his own peril regardless of his defense of ignorance or an honest mistake of fact.
On the evening of September 23, 1979, the complainant, who was one month shy of her 16th birthday, met defendant George Cash at a Greyhound bus station in Detroit. The complainant was running away from home. After talking with complainant for a couple of hours and gaining her trust, Cash persuaded complainant to accompany him on a drive in his car. They drove to a motel, where two separate acts of sexual intercourse took place. The complainant managed to leave the motel room undetected after Cash fell asleep, and then awakened the motel manager, who called the police. Cash was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, namely, engaging in sexual penetration with a person between the ages of 13 and 16 years. Documents found in the court file indicated that at the time of the offense, Cash was 30 years old. Cash appealed and contended that his reasonable mistake of fact as to the complainant's age was a defense to the statutory rape charge.
Did the legislature in enacting the criminal sexual conduct code intend to omit the defense of a reasonable mistake of age from its definition of third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a 13- to 16-year-old?
The Supreme Court of Michigan disagreed on the grounds that the legislature in enacting the criminal sexual conduct code intended to omit the defense of a reasonable mistake of age from its definition of third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a 13- to 16-year-old. Moreover, the mistake-of-age defense, at least with regard to statutory rape crimes, was not constitutionally mandated. Defendant further contended that (1) the trial court abused its discretion in not permitting cross-examination of the complainant or her mother regarding the complainant's lifestyle; and (2) the prosecution's argument and introduction of evidence concerning a forcible rape denied defendant a fair trial. The Court disagreed. The evidence regarding complainant's lifestyle was irrelevant to impeach her credibility or to show her bias toward defendant. Affirming defendant's conviction, the Court also found no error requiring reversal in the prosecutor's brief references to evidence of forcible rape in his argument to the jury and on direct examination of the complainant and the examining physician.
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