Street Harassment and Michigan Law

Street harassment in Michigan

Did you know you could get 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine for swearing at or using vulgar language to someone on the street in Michigan?

Did you know you could get double if it’s in the presence of a woman or child?

A recent article reported two incidents that happened in the same block on Ann Arbor’s west side. Two women joggers were groped and followed by a man as they were out for their morning run.

Four days later, a man rang a doorbell and exposed himself to the child who answered the door then ran away.

Police are still searching for the men who did these things and urge Ann Arbor residents to be vigilant about their surroundings.

Street Harassment Laws

It’s called street harassment. Michigan – like most other states – has very specific laws against it. Think of it a bit like sexual harassment, except it’s usually explicitly sexual. In addition, it is done in public and by a stranger. Sounds scary for the victims, right? has put out a comprehensive pamphlet about street harassment, and what laws may apply to threatening and sexually explicit behavior done to you by a stranger in public.

There is also a guide for what to do if you find yourself in that situation. Here are some of the things that fall under the heading of street harassment, that could get you arrested in Michigan.

Street Harassment Charges

  • Cursing and swearing (In the presence of women and children especially. It might be sexist, but it’s still on the books). This can be as simple as using profanity. However, if something you say to someone on the street is, or can be construed as sexually explicit, you could be arrested under this law.
  • Window peeping – falls under the “disorderly person” law
  • Obscene conduct in public – making gestures or rude noises
  • Public intoxication and making a scene.
  • Loitering – the proverbial construction worker hanging around to watch and wolf whistle to women on the street comes to mind
  • Soliciting prostitution – If someone so much as yells “how much?” you can report them to the police for soliciting prostitution. It’s illegal.
  • Undesired and unwelcome accosting – Accosting is making an uninvited advance by words or gesture to someone you don’t know. Michigan law states that once you’ve asked someone to stop addressing you, it is a crime to continue.
  • Unlawful filming or photography – any pictures or footage sexual in nature, taken without someone’s permission
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Following
  • Stalking
  • Groping

The crimes committed by the men in the police reports were actually of a serious nature. Indecent exposure can get you a year in jail. Groping is actually fourth-degree criminal sexual assault and you could spend two years in jail for it.


Street harassment, in any form, can and should be reported to police. In addition, it is a serious crime that could end up getting you fines and/or jail time.

It is also a shameful and scary place to be in if you have attempted or even in gotten away with some of these types of crimes. Many people would not want to admit they were having this problem.

However, if you are, there is help. Get to a meeting, find someone who can help and make a commitment to stop what you are doing.

If you are facing charges for crimes of this nature, an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical. Contact my office today.

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