How Your Sexual History Could Impact Your Charges

Gavel and law books,depicting How Your Sexual History Could Impact Your Charges

Is it possible that your sexual history can influence your charges in a court of law?

This question is an integral part of two different cases which have been documented in popular formats. Let’s take a closer look at each case to examine what could happen.

The Staircase (Netflix) follows the bizarre case of Michael Peterson. He was tried and convicted of killing his wife on the stairs of their home.

Media coverage of the murder trial heavily favored the prosecution’s story. The documentary shows the other side of the story. It shows Michael Peterson’s side, as he tries to fight his charges and staunchly insists his wife’s death was an accident.

The other story is Justin “Ross” Harris’s story. He’s the man who left his 21-month-old son in the back of his car for over 7 hours in the Georgia heat. The child died. He and his ex-wife both said it was a tragic accident. However, the state of Georgia convicted Ross Harris of malice murder.

Secret Sexual Lives Made the State’s Case

The state had uncovered hidden pornographic pictures and messages to sexual partners who were not their wives. In both cases the state used that information to form its case against the defendants. 

Public opinion weighed heavily against the presumed innocence of Ross Harris. As a result,  his trial had to be moved to another county. The hope was for enough impartial jurors to be found in a new county to give Harris a fair trial.

However, was it fair? Was it fair for the state to uncover and use their sexual secrets against them to convict them of murder?

The State Covers Its Bases

The truth is, whether or not the defendants felt it was fair, when the state decides to use evidence of a secret sexual life against a defendant, it often has an advantage.

In each case, the state had a theory of motive that involved the sexual history. The state of North Carolina successfully proved to a jury that Michael Peterson was enraged when his wife confronted him with his secret stash of gay pornography and his elicit emails to male prostitutes and that it caused him to beat her to death.

If you believe the documentary’s convincing coverage of the state’s forensic case, it didn’t matter to the jury that the evidence didn’t back up the state’s theory of how Michael Peterson went about beating her to death. All the jury could hear was that he was a bi-sexual philanderer.

In the case of Ross Harris, the state, in its preliminary hearing, made the case that he had intentionally left his son to die because he wanted to be free from the duties of fatherhood.

Can Your Sexual History Influence Your Charges?

It’s unlikely that every case will gain as much media coverage and public outcry as these two cases. If you are facing murder charges, you may have your story covered in the media, but it’s less likely to make national news.

However, the state can and will use whatever power at its disposal to make its case against you, especially if your sexual history involves something illegal.

For instance, as in Ross Harris’s case, if child pornography is found on your phone during an investigation, the state could choose to prosecute you for that illegal activity as well as the charge for which you are under investigation.

The state of Georgia was pursuing criminal charges against Harris for the images of a girl under the age of 18 that were found on his phone. In addition, the state pursued charges for the sexually suggestive conversations Harris was having with this girl over text. The state did this at the same time that it was pursuing malice murder charges against him for the death of his son.

Michigan Law

The law applies in a very similar way in Michigan. You could be facing 5 – 40 years in prison if convicted of the same sexual-related charges as Ross Harris.

There is always a good chance that the state will look at your sexual history – even if you believe it to be secret. The state may use this information against you in your case. As with Michael Peterson’s case, the state used his sexual history, even though it was between consenting adults, to prove motive for the murder of his wife.


Are your charges are becoming more severe because of your secret sexual history? You need an aggressive and experienced defense attorney working for you.

Reach out today for help.

Let’s get started