A CPS worker is in a “position of authority” for purposes of the criminal sexual conduct (“CSC”) statutes where the sexual relationship involves an individual under investigation by the worker. In People v. Green, No. 321669, a child protective services (CPS) worker was convicted of multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. The victims were parents who were being investigated by the defendant for child neglect or abuse. Defendant appealed, arguing that the sexual relations and contact were consensual, and thus, there was no force or coercion. In a per curiam opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that the facts and circumstances indicate that defendant had used his position of authority as a CPS worker to coerce the sexual acts, and affirmed the convictions.
The Court of Appeals noted that there is no statutory provision or case that addresses the situation of a CPS worker using his position to coerce a parent he is investigating into sexual acts. However, the Court noted two cases in which it had found “force or coercion” in a teacher-student relationship. The first involved a teacher who used his position of authority to pinch the buttocks of three high school students on school property. The second case was where a practitioner of reiki—an ancient healing art that uses various hand positions to activate internal healing powers in patients—subjugated his fourteen-year-old student into submitting to sexual contact. In line with these two cases, the Court of Appeals found that the victims, here, were in a position of special vulnerability with respect to the defendant because the defendant had authority as a CPS worker to petition the court for removal of a child or termination of parental rights. Furthermore, the testimony established that defendant had informed one of the victims that if she did not leave her fiancé, her child would be taken away, and that defendant had isolated the other victim and made comments to elicit emotional responses from the victim.
The Court of Appeals distinguished the present case from People v. Perkins, 468 Mich. 448 (2003). Unlike the defendant in Perkins, who had a friendly relationship with the complainant and did not use his position as a deputy sheriff to coerce the sexual acts, the defendant here came in contact with the victims only because of his status as a CPS worker.