Under Minnesota law, the consequences of a criminal sexual conduct conviction can be severe. Convictions can be punishable with lengthy prison terms, large fines, and registration as a predatory offender (with some exceptions for 5th degree gross misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct).
If you have been charged with criminal sexual conduct, you will be facing steep penalties in a case that involves complex laws. You need the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights. In Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Washington, Anoka, and Stearns Counties, and throughout Minnesota, talk to defense attorney Jeff Dean, who has a proven track record successfully defending people charged with sex crimes. Call Jeff Dean today at (612) 305-4360.
Degrees of Criminal Sexual Misconduct and Penalties
First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct
This most serious degree of the crime can be charged in a range of circumstances, including when an accused engages in sexual penetration with the alleged victim, under any of the following circumstances:
- where the alleged victim was under 13 years old, and the defendant was older by three years or more – (here the state need only prove sexual contact).
- the victim was 13 to 16 years old, and the defendant was older by four years or more and held a position of authority over the victim. Importantly, mistake of age is not a defense. Consent is also not a defense.
- the alleged victim was under 16 years old, and the defendant had a “significant relationship” with him or her (family member, relative, guardian, etc.). Consent is not a defense.
- the defendant knew of the alleged victim’s physical or mental impairment.
- the defendant used threat, coercion, or force;
- the sexual act occurred under circumstances that caused the complainant to reasonably fear imminent great bodily harm to the herself/himself or another person.
- the accused is armed with a dangerous weapon that is used or displayed in a manner that causes the alleged victim to submit to the sexual act.
- the victim was injured during non-consensual sex.
- the accused is abetted or aided by an accomplice, and: the accomplice uses or threatens force to get the complainant to submit; or, the accomplice uses a dangerous weapon to get the victim to submit to the sexual act.
Penalties: There is a presumptive 12-year sentence and a maximum of 30 years imprisonment, plus a maximum of $40,000 fine. Upon release from prison, the accused will be subject to conditional release, which involves sex offender treatment and monitoring.
Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct
The same guidelines apply, but here the state need not only prove sexual contact (not penetration).
Penalties: Second degree criminal sexual conduct carries a presumptive 7.5-year sentence, and a maximum of 25 years imprisonment, plus a maximum of $35,000 fine. The offender may also be subject to conditional release, as described above.
Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct
This charge is based on sexual penetration with the alleged victim, and any of these circumstances exist:
- The victim was under 13 years old, and the defendant was less than three years older. Neither mistake of age nor consent is a defense to this charge.
- The victim was 13 to 15 years old, and the defendant was older by two years or more. Here, if the accused is no more than 5 years older than the alleged victim, than there is an affirmative defense that the accused reasonably believed that the victim was 16 or older – this is one of the few subdivisions where mistake of age is a defense.
- The victim was 16 to 17 years old, and the defendant was over four years older and in a position of authority. Neither mistake of age nor consent is a defense to this charge.
- The victim was 16 to 17 years old, and the defendant had a significant relationship with them, was in a position of authority, or used force, coercion, or threat. Again, neither mistake of age nor consent is a defense to this charge.
- The defendant was a psychotherapist of the victim, and the sexual penetration with the patient occurred during the psychotherapy session; or occurred outside the psychotherapy session so long as the psychotherapist-patient relationship still exists. If the psychotherapist-patient relationship has ended when the sexual act occurs, it is still a crime if the patient is emotionally dependent upon the psychotherapist.
- The defendant was a member of the clergy from whom the victim was seeking advice. Consent is not a defense.
- The defendant knew that the victim had a mental impairment.
- The defendant knew that the alleged victim was physically helpless. This subdivision is often charged where the alleged victim is asleep or heavily intoxicated.
- The defendant is an employee or volunteer of a juvenile or adult correctional or secure treatment facility and the complainant is a resident of that facility or is still under supervision of the correctional system. Consent by the alleged victim is not a defense.
- The accused is a massage therapist, the sexual penetration occurs during the massage session, and is not consensual.
Penalties: A maximum of 15 years imprisonment plus a maximum of $30,000 fine. Conditional release may also be required.
Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct
This follows the same guidelines as a third-degree charge but sexual penetration is not required, it is sufficient for the state to prove sexual contact.
Penalties: A maximum of 10 years imprisonment, plus a maximum of $20,000 fine. Conditional release may also be required.
Fifth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct
This includes non-consensual sexual contact over the clothing, lewd conduct (e.g. masturbation) or lewd exhibition in the presence of a minor, and non-consensual groping or removal of clothing.
Penalties: A first conviction of this crime is considered a gross misdemeanor in Minnesota, punishable with a maximum of 1 year imprisonment plus a maximum fine of $3,000. But if this was a repeat violation, it may be considered a felony, punishable with a maximum of 5 years imprisonment plus a maximum fine of $10,000.
Regardless of degree, a conviction of criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota also requires the offender to enter the Predatory Offender Registry and be subject to Community Notification upon release from prison (with some exceptions for 5th degree gross misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct.)
Minnesota’s Stringent Rules On Criminal Sexual Conduct
Like other states, Minnesota has strict views on criminal sexual conduct. Our state generally does not accept the “mistake of age” defense, even if the defendant genuinely believed that the complainant was of legal age and even if the complainant showed an identification purporting to be an adult.
Further, the victim’s consent is rarely a valid defense when a minor is involved. The age of consent in Minnesota is 16. A child who is younger than that cannot legally give consent, thus sexual involvement with them is statutory rape. In some cases, even if the child was 16 or 17 years old, the actor may still be convicted including where he/she was four years older than the child, was related to the child, or had a position of authority over the child.
These rules apply even in situations that may not initially appear as “rape”. People often think of rape as a violent incident, but many convictions have resulted from sexual encounters where both parties were intoxicated, unable to remember the details, or confused as to what transpired. If you are facing terrifying punishments for such a bewildering incident, it is crucial that you have an attorney to help you make sense of your legal options.
Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Jeff Dean
Attorney Jeffrey Dean has obtained case dismissals and Not Guilty verdicts in some of Minnesota’s most difficult sex crime cases. He is respected in the legal field as a skilled and tenacious attorney, securing the freedom of many Minnesotans charged with a crime. Call Jeff Dean today at (612) 305-4360.