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A Better Partnership
December 21, 2012

MSC Opinion: Presumption of legitimacy cannot be used to establish blood relationship element of crime

In a unanimous opinion, in People v. Zajaczkowski, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the prosecution cannot establish the blood relationship element between the defendant and the victim when undisputed DNA test results indicate that there is no biological relationship between them. The defendant was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct under MCL 750.520b(1)(b)(ii), which requires that the prosecution prove the following elements: (1) sexual penetration, (2) a victim who is at least 13 years old but less than 16 years old, and (3) a relationship by blood or affinity between the victim and the defendant. The Michigan Supreme Court vacated the defendant's conviction and remanded the case to the trial court for entry of a conviction of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in accordance with the defendant's plea agreement and for resentencing. The Court of Appeals had affirmed the conviction, relying on statutes and cases involving the civil presumption concerning the legitimacy of a child, as well as standing, in contexts involving paternity, child custody, and intestate succession. Interpreting the term "blood" relationship based on its ordinary meaning and the context in which it is used in the criminal statute, the Michigan Supreme Court determined that nothing in the language of the criminal statute indicates that a relationship by blood can be established through the civil presumption of legitimacy.

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