In a world of constantly shifting values and morals - and the all too common complete lack thereof, it's a tale that could easily have been logged in under her personal diary heading entitled "What I Did For Love". But when 42 year old high school teacher Heidi Lewis's story took a wrong turn and landed on the desk of the Bay County Prosecutor, it was filed, instead, in a drawer labeled criminal sexual conduct.
In fact, in a simpler time, consensual sexual contact between unmarried heterosexuals of legal age would have been out of the ambit of the Michigan criminal sexual conduct statutes. As a reaction to a perceived epidemic of sex crimes, however, the Michigan legislature in Lansing passed a raft of laws criminalizing a wider range of sexual behavior. Included in that legislative movement was a set of laws which punished teachers for sexual contact with their students - even if the students were above the age of consent (age 16) and below the age of 18.
Thus, Ms. Lewis now finds herself facing felony charges for alleged sexual contact with several of her 17 year old male students. Reportedly, the incidents took place in the teacher's Jeep and also at various homes of some of the participants.
Two criminal sexual conduct statutes may apply. The necessary elements under the first applicable statute include sexual penetration of a student between the ages of 16 and 18, by the student's teacher - MCL 750.520d(1)(e)(i) and (2), commonly known as criminal sexual conduct, 3rd degree. The maximum penalty for that violation is 15 years in prison.
The pertinent elements under the second potentially applicable statute include sexual contact with a student between the ages of 16 and 18, by the student's teacher - MCL 750.520e(1)(f)(i) and (2), commonly known as criminal sexual conduct, 4th degree. Under that lesser offense, however, proof of penetration is unnecessary. If convicted under that statute, Ms. Lewis faces up to two years in prison. The pertinent two year penalty is deemed a misdemeanor for civil law purposes, but it is treated as a felony for criminal law purposes.
If convicted of the higher charge, Ms. Lewis will be listed on the sex offender's registry for decades. Access to that list is posted on the internet and is available to the viewing public.
If there is any good news for Ms. Lewis in this matter, it may come in the form of a plea bargain. If Ms. Lewis' Southfield criminal defense lawyer is able to negotiate an agreement allowing the criminal defendant to plead to one count of criminal sexual conduct, 4th degree, Ms. Lewis may avoid being listed on the Michigan sex offender's registry. She may also become eligible for expungement of her criminal record.
Under a related statute, MCL 780.621, a person convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the 4th degree, may have her conviction set aside after the expiration of at least 5 years. A conviction for criminal sexual conduct in the 3rd degree, however, may never be set aside under that statute.
Jury Contamination Delays Trial of Former Bay City Teacher Charged with Sex With Students, Bay City News, 2/8/12