Runestad bill would close sexual assault loophole

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad introduced a measure Wednesday that would close a loophole in Michigan law that currently enables some perpetrators of criminal sexual assault to potentially escape the consequences of their behavior, deny justice for victims and secure a clean criminal record.

Under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), after being charged with a criminal sex offense, an individual age 17 to 24 may be eligible for “youthful trainee” status, in which case their crime is not kept on their record. No criminal sexual conduct charges are supposed to be eligible under HYTA.

“Sealed and nonpublic court records will not show up on standard criminal background checks, which is what our public schools and universities use to keep students safe,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “Allowing people to plea down to an antiquated rape charge and be given HYTA status with no criminal record is a clear violation of the Legislature’s intent.”

Senate Bill 204 would include Section 750.532 as one of the listed offenses that are ineligible for HYTA status and thus prevent its use as a tool to circumvent the original intent of this law.

“Section 750.532 of the Michigan Penal Code states it is a felony to ‘debauch an unmarried woman,’ and the act expressed by this antiquated language essentially equates to rape,” Runestad said. “Some prosecutors have used this law to obtain a guilty plea for rapists and, under the law, these criminals don’t have to register as sex offenders. That is wrong, and it needs to change.

“For public protection, an offense like this must stand on the individual’s record. My bill closes this loophole by including Section 750.532 as one of the listed offense that are ineligible for HYTA status.”

SB 204 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.