People v. Bono: Is The Michigan Gross Indecency Laws Limited to Certain Acts?

The Michigan Court of Appeals in People v. Bono discusses the Michigan Gross Indecency statute. To be specific, the Court answered the question of whether masturbation was an act of gross indecency, and whether the jury instructions for gross indecency must be limited to penetration, fellatio, and cunnilingus, or can be expanded to other acts

What Happened in the Case of People v. Bono

Defendants were in a bathroom stall at Meijers. One defendant was masturbating the other defendant.

Both defendants were charged with gross indecency. The defendant’s criminal defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the act did not constitute gross indecency, specifically, that there was no penetration of the penis into any areas, and therefore there was no fellatio or sexual intercourse. The second grounds for dismissal was the defendants were not in public.

While the Court of Appeals originally believed the defendants were not in public as a matter of law, the Supreme Court reversed this finding and sent the case back to the Court of Appeals on the penetration issue.

Gross Indecency Statute in Michigan

The Michigan Gross Indecency statute holds that any male person who, in public or in private, commits or is a party to the commission of or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of any act of gross indecency with another male person shall be guilty of a felony (a 5 year felony). MCL 750.338.

Nowhere in this statute does it state what “gross indecency” actually means, which has left the Courts to figure out the definition.

The Law

The Court has many times before confronted with the issue of whether an act is grossly indecent. The question is whether the act is an “ultimate sex act.” The Court found it impossible to argue that masturbation was not an ultimate sex act.

The real question the Court wanted to answer was whether a gross indecency conviction was limited to penetration, fellatio, or cunnilingus. This was because the jury instructions at the time only listed those three acts under the charge of gross indecency.

The Court found no case law holding that gross indecency must include one of those three acts. Indeed, the Court found a case saying masturbation could be an act of gross indecency, and a case saying that masturbation in the presence of a minor even while not in public can be an act of gross indecency. Therefore, the Court instructed the lower court on remand to revise the jury instructions to hold that masturbation could be an act of gross indecency.

Takeaways From the Case

The case of People v. Bono wasn’t groundbreaking in the sense that the act of masturbation was bound to be included as an act of gross indecency. The important result of the case was an expansion of the jury instructions for gross indecency. While before the instructions only contained acts of penetration, fellatio, and cunnilingus, the acts were then expanded to include masturbation.

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Michigan Sex Crimes Attorney

Have you been charged with a sex crime such as indecent exposure or sexual assault? Call ArborYpsi Law to see how we can help. Sex crime charges can come with serious consequences, including jail or prison time, and sex offender registration. Protect yourself and don’t wait until the first court date to call a criminal lawyer.

Read the Law on Michigan Indecent Exposure Charges

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This case is Cited as People v. Bono v. Lake 641 N.W.2d 278 (2002), 249 Mich. App. 115

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