Cheat on your spouse in Michigan and you could go to jail for life.

I love my state, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fucked up in many ways. We’re number one in unemployment, our economy is in the toilet, and now some judges have ruled that a Michigan law states that adulterers can be sent to prison for life:

In a ruling sure to make philandering spouses squirm, Michigan’s second-highest court says that anyone involved in an extramarital fling can be prosecuted for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prison.

“We cannot help but question whether the Legislature actually intended the result we reach here today,” Judge William Murphy wrote in November for a unanimous Court of Appeals panel, “but we are curtailed by the language of the statute from reaching any other conclusion.”

“Technically,” he added, “any time a person engages in sexual penetration in an adulterous relationship, he or she is guilty of CSC I,” the most serious sexual assault charge in Michigan’s criminal code.

What the fuck??

The ruling grows out of a case in which a Charlevoix man accused of trading Oxycontin pills for the sexual favors of a cocktail waitress was charged under an obscure provision of Michigan’s criminal law. The provision decrees that a person is guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct whenever “sexual penetration occurs under circumstances involving the commission of any other felony.”

Charlevoix Circuit Judge Richard Pajtas sentenced Lloyd Waltonen to up to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of delivering a controlled substance. But Pajtas threw out the sexual assault charge against Waltonen, citing the cocktail waitress’ testimony that she had willingly consented to the sex-for-drugs arrangement.

Charlevoix prosecuting attorney John Jarema said he decided to appeal after police discovered evidence that Waltonen may have struck drugs-for-sex deals with several other women.

OK, I’m following this so far: There’s an obscure provision in one of Michigan’s laws that says having sex while engaging in a felony makes that sexual act into felony sexual conduct. This was added to the law in 1931 and I can’t begin to imagine what the hell prompted that provision in the first place. Were people robbing banks while having sex or something? And how does that translate into adultery equals felony sexual conduct?

[Michigan’s Attorney General Mike] Cox’s office, which handled the appeal on the prosecutor’s behalf, insisted that the waitress’ consent was irrelevant. All that mattered, the attorney general argued in a brief demanding that the charge be reinstated, was that the pair had sex “under circumstances involving the commission of another felony”—the delivery of the Oxycontin pills.

The Attorney General’s Office got a whole lot more than it bargained for. The Court of Appeals agreed that the prosecutor in Waltonen’s case needed only to prove that the Oxycontin delivery and the consensual sex were related. But Murphy and his colleagues went further, ruling that a first-degree CSC charge could be justified when consensual sex occurred in conjunction with any felony, not just a drug sale.

The judges said they recognized their ruling could have sweeping consequences, “considering the voluminous number of felonious acts that can be found in the penal code.” Among the many crimes Michigan still recognizes as felonies, they noted pointedly, is adultery—although the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan notes that no one has been convicted of that offense since 1971.

Now there’s a wrinkle to this story that it’s important to mention at this point. Michigan’s aforementioned State Attorney General—Mike Cox (huh huhuh huh)—just so happens to be a self-confessed adulterer. Oops!

Needless to say there’s been quite a bit of gossip and whispering in Michigan’s legal circles since this ruling was handed down with some folks suggesting that it was a slap at Mike Cox (snicker) by the judges on the Court of Appeals:

“I never thought of it, and I’m confident that it was not something Judge Murphy or Judge Smolenski had in mind,” Whitbeck told me Friday. But he chuckled uncomfortably when I asked if the hypothetical described in Murphy’s opinion couldn’t be cited as justification for bringing first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges against the attorney general.

“Well, yeah,” he said.

Stunning hypocrisy from Attorney General Cox’s office in 3… 2… 1…

Cox’s spokesman, Rusty Hills, bristled at the suggestion that Cox or anyone else in his circumstances could face prosecution.

“To even ask about this borders on the nutty,” Hills told me in a phone interview Saturday. “Nobody connects the attorney general with this—N-O-B-O-D-Y—and anybody who thinks otherwise is hallucinogenic.”

Why is it nutty to think that our beloved Attorney General might be prosecuted for a felony he as openly admitted committing? Is he above the law? Does Michigan’s laws not apply to him? He’s the one who got all gung-ho about trying to prosecute someone under a rather obscure law, but he doesn’t think that same law should apply to him as well?

Hills said Sunday that Cox did not want to comment.

Big fucking surprise.

Naturally I’m opposed to this law myself as well as the one that makes adultery a felony and both should be removed from the books. Hopefully our beloved Attorney General has learned a thing or two about the concept of unintended consequences and, just perhaps, he’ll be more inclined to keep his dick in his pants until he gets a divorce. Good thing for him us liberals have made that fairly easy here in Michigan.

Link sent to me by an SEB regular who’s name I suddenly can’t recall. Dammit.

20 thoughts on “Cheat on your spouse in Michigan and you could go to jail for life.

  1. People are naturally promiscuous. I still don’t understand how the concept of monogamous marriage has lasted so long.

    Polygamy makes perfect sense to me.

  2. “To even ask about this borders on the nutty,” Hills told me in a phone interview Saturday. “Nobody connects the attorney general with this—N-O-B-O-D-Y—and anybody who thinks otherwise is hallucinogenic.”

    Funny that this guy should speak of hallucinogens.

  3. My first observation is that Lawrence brings into question the constitutionality of adultery laws. Without addressing that issue, I believe that the Michigan Court of Appeals reached the right decision on the merits, but its dicta about adultery is likely misplaced as are attempts to link the Attorney General to criminal sexual conduct.

    Let’s start with the laws in question. 

    750.520b.  First degree criminal sexual conduct
      Sec. 520b.  (1)  A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree if he or she engages in sexual penetration with another person and if any of the following circumstances exist:

    *****
      (c)  Sexual penetration occurs under circumstances involving the commission of any other felony.

    Sexual penetration is defined by statute. 

    (l)  “Sexual penetration”  means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any other intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person’s body, but emission of semen is not required.

    Michigan Penal Code 750.30 states:

    Any person who shall commit adultery shall be guilty of a felony; and when the crime is committed between a married woman and a man who is unmarried, the man shall be guilty of adultery, and liable to the same punishment.

    Adultery has a plain and ordinary meaning: Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse.

    Now without addressing situations of fellatio or cunnilingus between a married person and a partner other than their lawful spouse, it is the very act of sexual intercourse that defines adultery.  Sexual penetration is, amongst other things intercourse.  The Court of Appeals seems to be suggesting that the one act of sexual intercourse constitutes two separate crimes.  That can’t be.  The state may not punish someone twice for one act.  Double jeopardy prohibits that. 

    As a practical matter, under Michigan law, the crime of adultery may only be charged when a complaint is filed by the husband or wife.  See 750.31.  Unlike the case before the Court, where the state decided to bootstrap the criminal sexual conduct charge onto the sale of drugs charge, the adultery charge must be instituted by a spouse.

    On a more technical note, what the Court of Appeals stated in its opinion is not binding.  The dicta about what the Court thinks about cases that may come before the Court has no legal authority.  Only the Court’s rulings on the case before the court. So, this is just hot air being blown by the Court, for reasons I don’t know, and at who, I’m not sure. It did make for interesting reading though. smile

  4. Ever wondered about all those judges Bush nominated?
    Well, now you know what kind of edicts they’re throwing down from the bench.

    Fight against and always resist the growing Fundamentalist-Christian Judiciary in America.
    Shame them for the christ-nazi’s that they are.

    rob@egoz.org

  5. rob adams: Shame them for the christ-nazi’s that they are

    Christ-nazi’s? Christ was a Jew as far as I knew, so you would expect the hollocaust to be anti-jc. I don’t know what the nazi party’s stance was on religion though I admit. I agree though – the law shouldn’t be used to enforce religous principles on everyone, people would be following them for the wrong reason in my opinion.

    Moloch: People are naturally promiscuous. I still don’t understand how the concept of monogamous marriage has lasted so long

    Would be interesting if relationships didn’t exist at all and sex was purely a casual act of friendship. I believe there is a breed of monkey that follows a culture like this

  6. We have another archaic law here in MI that says a woman must have her husband’s permission before cutting her hair-or she could be sent to jail.

  7. Wow all I have to say is there could a whole lot of empty martial beds, a whole lot of full jail cells and a whole lot of kids with one parent missing unless this mess gets clarified!!!

  8. DC: I don’t know what the nazi party’s stance was on religion though I admit.

    Hitler was raised Catholic, but opinions are torn regarding his religious beliefs (or lack thereof) as an adult. I personally am of the opinion that Hitler considered himself a good Christian. What does seem clear is that he invoked many of the ideas of Martin Luther (himself an outrageous anti-Semite) in his propoganda.

    Here is an example of evidence that seems to suggest Hitler’s and members of the Nazi party’s allegiance to Christianity, along with this, this, and this. On the other hand, this guy disagrees, as does this fellow. Keep in mind that none of the sources linked to are exactly unbiased.

    For me, though, this quote from 1941 is pretty unequivocal: “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.”

  9. Cheers to Benoir and Sexy Sadie for the info, either way Hitler seems to categorise beliefs and judge by category, I guess the holocaust is the extreme example

  10. LH – just got that LOL, quite possibly the phrase “wtf?” started with people’s response to police on getting arrested under this law. If this law was never passed this blog might never have had it’s catchphrase

  11. There’s an obscure provision in one of Michigan’s laws that says having sex while engaging in a felony makes that sexual act into felony sexual conduct. This was added to the law in 1931 and I can’t begin to imagine what the hell prompted that provision in the first place. Were people robbing banks while having sex or something?

    Most likely it was put there to make it easier to bring a rape charge under situations when you want a rape charge.  So, for instance, if you abduct someone, and if abduction is a felony, then any sex you have with her is automatically also a felony even if you give her drugs or cajole her into consenting.  The oxycontin deal then becomes an example of the law of unintended consequences.

  12. Elwed, thanks for the link to International Dumb Laws.
    I like the one in Oz: It is illegal to wear hot pink pants after midday Sunday.  LOL

  13. The real truth is that the PA was looking ofr any reason to send Waltonen back (yes back) to prison.  He’s a major dirt bag.  Just because he shot a guys 3 finger off while high and drunk doesn’t mean anything does it?

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